A star is born. Two, actually

600 light years distant from Earth, a wolf made of smoke prowls within a scorpion, and stars are born.

Well, not quite, but the poetry of astronomical names inspires the image. This photograph, released by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), shows a massive swathe of dust and gas, a dark nebula known as Lupus 3. It lies within the constellation called Scorpius.

All nebulae comprise dust and gas, and many stretch over hundreds of light years. Some are brightly lit by intense radiation emanating from hot stars. Others, however, are dark, absorbing and scattering light through cold and dense dust particles.{%recommended 4114%}

Dark nebulae are star-forming regions. This image shows two young stars emerging from the Wolf – the result of clumps of nebula dust coalescing and contracting under gravity, heating up in the process.

Earlier in their young lives, the two stars would have been shrouded by Lupus 3, visible only to astronomers studying infrared and radio wavelengths. Now, however, their own intense radiation and strengthening solar winds have cleared the detritus from nearby, revealing their brightness.

It is a radiance that will in time increase further – because the Wolf’s children are not yet mature. ESO says their cores are still contracting, and their brightness is caused by the conversion of gravitational energy into heat. Eventually, a critical mass will be reached and nuclear fusion will be triggered in the cores.

And then the cubs will be off and running.

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