Herbig-Haro 211 by Webb.

Webb Unveils the Intricate Outflow of a Sun-like Infant Star

James Webb Space Telescope shares an awe-inspiring view of HH 211, offering invaluable insights into young stellar formations.

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Luminous Herbig-Haro (HH) regions orbit fresh stars, born when stellar winds or gas jets erupting from these stars create shock waves. These waves crash into surrounding gas and dust at considerable speeds. One such notable snapshot from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope presents HH 211, revealing an outflow from a Class 0 protostar. This protostar mirrors our Sun’s earliest phase, being only a fraction of its current age and mass, but destined to evolve into a sun-like star.

The Power of Infrared Imaging

Newborn stars, like the one in HH 211, remain enveloped within their birthplace’s molecular cloud gas. Infrared imaging becomes invaluable here as it can pierce through the gas and dust hiding the stars, making objects like HH 211 perfect for Webb’s adept infrared tools. Molecules, including molecular hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and silicon monoxide, activated by these turbulent conditions emit infrared light. Webb’s instruments gather this light, helping scientists decipher the outflow structures.

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Webb’s Unveiling: A Spectacle in Detail

This HH 211 image stands out, showing bow shocks on both southeast and northwest ends, flanking a slender bipolar jet that drives them. With Webb’s capabilities, the captured details are 5 to 10 times sharper than any prior HH 211 images. Intriguingly, the inner jet exhibits a symmetrical “wiggle” around the central protostar. This pattern aligns with prior observations, hinting at the potential existence of an unseen binary star at its heart.

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Comparing Past and Present Observations

Earlier glimpses of HH 211 via terrestrial telescopes exposed large bow shocks moving in opposite directions and hollowed structures in shocked hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Not to mention, a knotted and oscillating bipolar jet seen in silicon monoxide. Webb’s fresh insights have enabled scientists to deduce that HH 211’s outflow pace is more relaxed than that of older, similar protostars.

The researchers assessed the speed of the innermost outflow parts to be approximately 48-60 miles per second (80 to 100 kilometers per second). Yet, the speed difference between these outflow segments and the impacted leading material is minor.

Drawing conclusions, they believe that outflows from the youngest stars, such as the one nestled in HH 211, are predominantly molecular. This is because the slower shock wave speeds lack the energy needed to dismantle the molecules into simpler components.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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