This animation shows an approach a young stellar disk with age of about 100,000 years. The newborn star is surrounded by a dusty disk of gas. The densest material is confined to the disk midplane, which appears as a dark belt sihouetted against more tenuous material illuminated by the central star. Disk material pours onto the star, and the energy released drives twin gas jets which shoot away from the star at right angles to the disk.
As the viewpoint moves toward the disk midplane, the star appears to set as dust in the disk obscures the newborn sun. Within the disk, large rocks and boulders have settled into a thin plane the middle of the disk, where they will collide and stick together, rapidly "snowballing" into larger bodies.
Emerging from the opposite side of the disk, the view has moved forward in time by perhaps a few million years. The disk appears much flatter now, since most of the dust has settled into the midplane to be swept up by large solid bodies.
Planets have formed within the disk, and their gravity clears gaps in their orbital paths through the disk. The jet activity has ceased since disk material no longer reaches the star. A new solar system has been born.
Animation: G. Bacon (STScI)
Publication: February 9, 1999