Okay, this is by far my new personal favorite image of Webb. The space telescope observed a pair of stars called Herbig-Haro 46/47, and I guarantee the full HD image will blow your mind.
The universe is a cosmic dance floor, and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured the lively moves of a pair of budding stars. The telescope has revealed the energetic dynamics of Herbig-Haro 46/47, stars in the making, using its high-resolution near-infrared imaging capability.
Locating the Young Stars
Spotting these celestial dancers is a bit of a task. The trail of the vibrant pink and red light diffractions will lead you to their centre — an orange-white blotch where these stars reside. Enveloped deeply within a dust and gas disk that fuels their growth, these stars are not directly visible, but the shadows of the disk can be discerned in the two dark cones flanking the central stars.
The star attraction in this celestial show is the two lobes that expand outward from the embryonic central stars, depicted in flaming orange. This material was expelled from the stars over millennia, as they repeatedly consume and discharge the surrounding dust and gas.
This Webb Image of Herbig-Haro 46/47 Will Blow Your Mind
The shape of these lobes transforms when newly ejected material collides with older remnants. It’s akin to the patterns formed in a pool by an erratically running fountain. Some jets spew out more material at higher velocities than others, a phenomenon likely tied to the quantity of material the stars consumed at a particular time.
The recent star ejections, appearing in thread-like blue, run just under the red horizontal diffraction spike at the 2 o’clock position. The right side displays clearer wavy patterns. However, the stars’ bright red diffraction spike sometimes overshadows the lighter blue, curly lines on the left.
The Importance of Jets in Star Formation
These jets play an instrumental role in star formation as they regulate the stars’ final mass. Picturing the gas and dust feeding disk as a tightly tied band around the stars can help illustrate this concept.
Next, notice the bubbling blue cloud, a dense region of dust and gas also known as a Bok globule or simply a nebula. It appears nearly completely black in visible light, with only a few background stars piercing through.
With Webb’s near-infrared image, the veiled layers of the cloud become transparent, bringing more of Herbig-Haro 46/47 into focus and revealing an array of distant stars and galaxies beyond it. The nebula’s influence on the jets’ shape becomes evident as ejected material collides with molecules within the nebula, illuminating them.
Asymmetry in Lobes and Final Formation
For a study in asymmetry, take a look at the different structures in the upper right and lower left of the image. Over millions of years, the stars in Herbig-Haro 46/47 will fully form, clearing the scene of these vibrant, multi-colored ejections and leaving the binary stars to shine against a galaxy-studded backdrop.
The James Webb Space Telescope reveals detailed insights into Herbig-Haro 46/47 thanks to its proximity to Earth (only 1,470 light-years away in the Vela Constellation) and the depth added by multiple exposures captured by Webb.
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