Astronomers have witnessed a key stage in the birth of a very heavy star, using two radio telescope views of the process taken 18 years apart. The young star is 4,200 light-years from Earth and appears to be surrounded by a doughnut-shaped cloud of dust. That cloud slows down the hot, ionised wind that the star blasts into space, causing it to form an elongated column perpendicular to the dusty ring. The new results represent “before and after” glimpses of that column forming. They were captured by the Very Large Array, a battery of 27 antennae in the New Mexico desert, and are published in the journal Science. The infant star is about 300 times brighter than the Earth’s Sun and is called W75N(B)-VLA2. The work revealed the wind to be much more elongated, emerging from the presumed ring of dust Earlier pictures have shown the violent death of a star: Once again the elongated outflow appears to be aligned with the magnetic field – suggesting that magnetism is playing a crucial role both in a star’s formation and its death.