Originally published in Creation 18, no 2 (March 1996): 50-51.
Question: 'The Hubble telescope has recently taken some spectacular pictures of stars forming. Doesn't this prove that stars were not created?'
Answer: This superb picture which appeared in many newspapers highlighted the remarkable technical achievements of the Hubble project, which seems set to produce more fascinating images over the next few years. Are the objects detected glowing in each of the tiny finger-like projections (right) [original photo in Creation ex nihilo could not be reproduced for copyright reasons] really stars in the process of formation? Perhaps.
The reason one cannot answer 'definitely' is because these are not movie films actually showing stars forming. Astronomers believe such a process would take too long to observe anyway. These still images are believed to be snapshots of a stage in the process of stars being born, because they match the appearance which astronomers expected to find on the basis of theory.
Given the right special conditions, it may be possible for a cloud of hydrogen to become a star — if it is first compressed to the right density so that the force of gravity is more powerful than the tendency for it to disperse. It will then irresistibly collapse, and the resultant heating of its interior should eventually ignite the process of thermonuclear fusion thought to power stars.
The catch is that the conditions required to compress the gas to that point seem to require the shock waves from the explosion of a previously existing star. So it is consistent with this theory for the Hubble telescope to have detected images in the Eagle Nebula (as shown here), which astronomers think is the remnants of an exploded star.
Some creationist astronomers have been thinking for a while that God may have set the first stars alight in a similar fashion, that is, by rapidly and supernaturally gathering together/compressing material made on the first day of creation. We see many of these today in various stages of 'star death', including some which explode. If the shock waves from some of these explosions were to ignite a few more such thermonuclear fires by gas compression, this would cause no discomfort to straightforward Genesis creation. However, such rare events would be insufficient to replace those stars dying off.
Some have suggested that these appearances are caused by pre-existing stars being progressively revealed as 'light pressure' blows away the surrounding material. Actually, astronomers who believe these are stars forming have said that such 'photo-evaporation' has inhibited their growth, implying that these objects may never be able to develop into normal mature stars, anyway.
Even if it could be shown for certain that stars really were forming in this nebula, it should be obvious that a mechanism which needs to first have a star in order to form more stars is not sufficient to explain how stars came to be.