Site and all content Copyright 2002-2006 Russell Croman unless otherwise noted.

A Star is Born

On 23 January 2004, amateur astronomer Jay McNeil discovered a new nebula in Orion, near the existing nebula, M78. Here is an animation of the emergence and evolution of his find, constructed using images taken by a number of amateur astronomers over a period of time.

What we are witnessing here is apparently the actual birth of a star. The young would-be star had been gathering material for untold years, shrouded in a cocoon of dust and gas. Then, in a matter of just a few months, it has burst into brilliance, lighting up the cloud around it. This cloud is changing rapidly, and professional astronomers are eagerly pursuing follow-up observations of this rare event.

Here are links to Jay's original discovery image and a follow-up image:

2004-01-23 discovery image.
2004-02-03 follow-up Image.
See the BBC News article on Jay's discovery!
Animation source images...

The above animation was constructed with five original images by the authors below. These were registered to each other, cropped to focus on the new nebula, and then animated using Adobe ImageReady. Three "tween" frames were generated between each main image.

Note: All images are copyright their original authors. The use of their work here is gratefully acknowledged.

  1. 2002-12-07, Benoit Schillings, via private email.
  2. 2003-10-24, Cord Scholz.
  3. 2003-12-30, Russell Croman.
  4. 2004-01-20, Bob Fera.
  5. 2004-02-12, Adam Block.

Note also that these images were taken with widely varying equipment and filters. So while the above animation gives a good sense of the object's development, things such as absolute accuracy of brightness levels, for example, are not represented with very good precision.