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HOME > PAST ISSUE > July-August 2001 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

Protostars

"Stellar embryology" takes a step forward with the first detailed look at the youngest Sun-like stars

Thomas Greene

A stellar embryo—a protostar—grows in a womb of molecular gas so choked with dust that visible light has little hope of passing through. Viewed in an optical telescope, these dusty wombs appear to be nothing more than dark patches in the sky. Fortunately, the field of stellar embryology has recently turned a corner with the development of large telescopes and sensitive infrared detectors that allow direct measurements of these objects for the first time. Stellar embryologist Tom Greene explains how these recent observations are helping astronomers understand the earliest stages of star formation.


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