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Icy Dawn of a Newborn Star

In this animation, we observe what a young star with a circumstellar disc would look like when viewed from different angles.

In the first view, the system is tilted in such a way that we look almost straight down on the star. From this angle, light from the star swamps the fainter disc, denying us any information about the dust and gas in its inner, planet-forming region.

As our line of sight switches to view the disc edge-on, the star is completely blocked by the dust in the outer region of the disc, which forms a dark band against the faint glow of light being scattered up through the cloud.

As our angle changes again, however, our point of view shows us the star just peeking through the dusty disc, almost like the Sun rising above the horizon at dawn. This unique or particular angle allows astronomers to sample the chemistry of the inner region of the disc, as starlight is absorbed, but not completely obscured by the disc material.

Having found a young star at just the right angle, astronomers have observed its light filtering through water and carbon dioxide ices in its inner disc, creating a lovely, icy "dawn" in a new planetary system.

This animation is not an artist's concept but is rather a physical model of the young star and disc, seen in a J-, H- and K-band waveband composite (1.5, 2.0 and 2.7 microns).

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