Cosmic birth

Even as the recent photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope made news, radio observations made over the last three years by the NASA Deep Space Network anten- na at Goldstone, California, and the Very Large Array - a collection of radio telescopes outside Socorro, New Mtsdw - turned the spotlight on an infant star in the Milky Way.

The nascent star is not far away by cosmic standards - only 800 light years from earth in the direction of the constellation Aquila. It is not very big, only half as large as the sun although astronomers believe it may grow with time For several years, astro nomers have been busy observing the birthplace of this particular star, a kind of an intersteVar gas cloud called a Bok globule. The new star embedded in the opaque cloud cannot be seen, but infrared observations can tell that it exists and must be around 150, 000 years old - which does not make it a true star as yet, it is called a protostar because it has not reached the core densities and tempera- tures required to ignite nuclear fusion. The recent radio observation, says William D Langer, an astrophysicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, provides "confirmation of the general theory of protostar formation".