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Found: A Star Hundreds of Light-Years From Any Others

Normally stars form in groups.

CX330. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

CX330, as far as anyone can tell, is a star. Astronomers first caught sight of it using the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, but soon they discovered, using data from other instruments, it was emitting optical light, too. It was also surrounded by warm dust, the sign of an outburst. The more data they gathered, the more astronomers came to believe: there was only one thing this could be.

Of all the explanations they considered, “the only one that makes sense is that this rapidly growing young star is forming in the middle of nowhere,” the lead researcher, Dr. Christopher Britt, said.

But CX330 is a strange kind of young star. Stars need gas and dust to form, and usually they sit in star-forming areas that have those resources in abundance. CX330 is all alone, hundreds of light-years from any such field. “Young” means it’s less than a million years old, but even in the few short years the scientists have observed it, it’s been outbursting and increasing in brightness, hundreds of times over.

Understanding the star’s formation will help astronomers better grasp how stars are made: what is this one doing all alone? Are there more like it? All we know right now is that it’s sitting isolated in space, shining.

Every day, we highlight one newly found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com.