A Star Is Born

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The astonishing images beaming down from the Hubble Space Telescope just got better. The first pictures from a new high-resolution camera, installed in March, arrived last week, and they are out of this world. This photo of a stellar nursery is a close-up of the Cone Nebula, a cloud of gas and dust some 2,500 light-years from Earth. From top to bottom, the celestial pillar shown here spans 2.5 light-years--3,000 times the size of our solar system. Stars are being born within the cloud as dense knots of gas collapse and flare with nuclear fusion. Five billion years ago, when our sun was still a newborn, it was probably shrouded in a cloud like this one.