There should be no doubt that IRAS 14568-6304 is one of the most stunningly unique celestial objects in our galaxy. In this newly-released image, we see this object in its natural environment, which just intensifies the beauty of both.
The larger region — known as the Circinus molecular cloud complex — is quite large and expansive, containing more mass than 250,000 Sun's combined. It, however, isn't traditional. Instead of harboring large quantities of hot, gaseous material, Circinus is composed of lots of dense interstellar dust, with young stars thrown in for good measure. Given the fact that this material largely masks the stars buried inside of it, huge chunks of the molecular cloud are classified as dark nebulae.
Speaking of, according to the NASA/ESA collaborative team,
"Within this cloud lie two prominent and enormous regions known colloquially to astronomers as Circinus-West and Circinus-East. Each of these clumps has a mass of around 5000 times that of the Sun, making them the most prominent star-forming sites in the Circinus cloud. The clumps are associated with a number of young stellar objects, and IRAS 14568-6304, featured here under a blurry fog of gas within Circinus-West, is one of them."
IRAS 14568-6304 is unlike its contemporary nebular counterparts because it isn't driven by a star that has died, but one that is still in its prime. Specifically, IRAS — what we'll call it for the sake of brevity — is powered by a strikingly powerful protostellar jet, which, from our perspective, takes the shape of a tail dipping below the star from which it was spawned.
Additionally, the team notes that: "This jet is the leftover gas and dust that the star took from its parent cloud in order to form. While most of this material forms the star and its accretion disc — the disc of material surrounding the star, which may one day form planets — at some point in the formation process the star began to eject some of the material at supersonic speeds through space. This phenomenon is not only beautiful, but can also provide us with valuable clues about the process of star formation."
"IRAS 14568-6304 is one of several outflow sources in the Circinus-West clump. Together, these sources make up one of the brightest, most massive, and most energetic outflows ever reported. Scientists have even suggested calling Circinus-West the "nest of molecular outflows" in tribute to this activity."
See a larger image here.