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05.26.11

Crystal Rain

This artist's conception shows green crystals of olivine raining down on a developing star like cosmic glitter. The crystals were spotted by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope in a collapsing cloud of gas surrounding an embryonic star called HOPS-68. Stars form out of collapsing clouds. The growing stars feed off the clouds, accumulating more and more mass. Here, HOPS-68 is shown embedded within a large, dark filament of dust and gas.

The artwork illustrates how the olivine crystals are suspected to have been transported into the outer cloud around the developing star, or protostar. Jets shooting away from the protostar, where temperatures are hot enough to cook the crystals, are thought to have transported them to the outer cloud, where temperatures are much colder. Astronomers say the crystals are raining back down onto the swirling disk of planet-forming dust circling the star, pictured here as a green fog falling away from the jet.