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Strobe-like Flashes Discovered in a Suspected Binary Protostar

Science Animations Video • February 8th, 2013 • ssc2013-04v1

This video, created from a sequence of images from the Hubble Space Telescope, shows a pulse of light emanating from the protostellar object LRLL 54361. Most if not all of this light results from scattering off circumstellar dust in the protostellar envelope. An apparent edge-on disk, visible at the center of the object and three separate structures are interpreted as outflow cavities.

The extent and shape of the scattered light changes substantially over a 25.34-day period. This is caused by the propagation of the light pulse through the nebula. Astronomers propose that the flashes are due to material in a circumstellar disk suddenly being dumped onto the growing stars and unleashing a blast of radiation each time the stars get close to each other in their orbit.

The false-color, near-infrared-light photos are from Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.

Video Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Muzerolle, Z. Levay, and G. Bacon (STScI)