Historical Background

It is a common perception that astronomy is one of the oldest occupations in the history of mankind. While this is probably true, ancient views contain very little about the origins of stars. Their everlasting presence in the night sky made stars widely used benchmarks for navigation. Though it always was and still is a spectacular event once a new light, a nova, a new star appears in the sky. Such new lights are either illuminated moving bodies within our Solar System, or a supernova and thus the death of a star, or some other phases in the late evolution of stars. Never is a normal star really born in these cases. The birth of a star always happens in the darkness of cosmic dust and is therefore not visible to human eyes (see Plate 1.1). In fact, when a newborn star finally becomes visible, it is already at the stage of kindergarten in terms of human growth. It takes the most modern of observational techniques and the entire accessible bandwidth of the electromagnetic spectrum to peek into the hatcheries of stars.

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