Thursday, September 14, 2023

Herbig-Haro 211 Bipolar Jet in Perseus | James Webb Space Telescope

Herbig-Haro 211 Bipolar Jet in Perseus | James Webb Space Telescope

In this image from the NASA/European Space Agency/Canadian Space Agency James Webb Space Telescope is Herbig-Haro 211 (HH 211), a bipolar jet travelling through interstellar space at supersonic speeds. At roughly 1,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Perseus, the object is one of the youngest and nearest protostellar outflows, making it an ideal target for Webb.

Herbig-Haro objects are luminous regions surrounding newborn stars, and are formed when stellar winds or jets of gas spewing from these newborn stars form shockwaves colliding with nearby gas and dust at high speeds. This spectacular image of HH 211 reveals an outflow from a Class 0 protostar, an infantile analog of our Sun when it was no more than a few tens of thousands of years old and with a mass only 8% of the present-day Sun (it will eventually grow into a star like the Sun).

Infrared imaging is powerful in studying newborn stars and their outflows, because such stars are invariably still embedded within the gas from the molecular cloud in which they formed. The infrared emission of the star’s outflows penetrates the obscuring gas and dust, making a Herbig-Haro object like HH 211 ideal for observation with Webb’s sensitive infrared instruments. Molecules excited by the turbulent conditions, including molecular hydrogen, carbon monoxide and silicon monoxide, emit infrared light that Webb can collect to map out the structure of the outflows.

The image showcases a series of bow shocks to the southeast (lower-left) and northwest (upper-right) as well as the narrow bipolar jet that powers them in unprecedented detail—roughly 5 to 10 times higher spatial resolution than any previous images of HH 211. The inner jet is seen to “wiggle” with mirror symmetry on either side of the central protostar. This is in agreement with observations on smaller scales and suggests that the protostar may in fact be an unresolved binary star.

Image Description: At the center is a thin horizontal multi-colored cloud tilted from bottom left to top right. At its center is a dark brown cloud from which both outflows are spewing from. These outflows transition from colors of yellow/orange, to a light blue region, with prominent light pink features in the outer regions.

Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, T. Ray (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies)

Release Date: Sept. 14, 2023

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