- Herbig-Haro 211 is located about 1,000 light years from us, in the constellation Perseus.
- The protostar gives a glimpse of what our sun was like when it was young
It may seem like something from a galaxy far, far away.
But this stunning image of a newborn star, showing what looks like a Star Wars-style ‘lightsaber’ sticking out of it, actually has much closer ties.
This is because it offers a glimpse of what our sun was like when it was very young.
Herbig-Haro 211 (HH 211), which is located about 1,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Perseus, is not actually visible in the image captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.
However, astronomers know that it is there because of the huge flows of gas and dust coming out on both sides, which shows that the star is growing.
It is currently about eight percent the mass of the Sun, but is expected to eventually reach the same size in the next few million years.
From a galaxy far, far away: This spectacular image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope captures a newborn star with what looks like a Star Wars-style ‘lightsaber’ fired from it.
HOW DO STARS FORM?
Stars form from dense molecular clouds (of dust and gas) in regions of interstellar space known as stellar nurseries.
A single molecular cloud, containing mainly hydrogen atoms, can have thousands of times the mass of the sun.
They undergo turbulent motions with gas and dust moving over time, disturbing atoms and molecules, causing some regions to have more matter than other parts.
If enough gas and dust gather in an area, it begins to collapse under the weight of its own gravity.
As it begins to collapse, it slowly heats up and expands outward, absorbing more of the surrounding gas and dust.
At this point, when the region is approximately 900 billion miles in diameter, it becomes a prestellar core and in the initial process of becoming a star.
Then, over the next 50,000 years, it will shrink 150 billion kilometers in diameter to become the inner core of a star.
The excess material is expelled towards the poles of the star and a disk of gas and dust forms around the star, forming a protostar.
This matter is then incorporated into the star or ejected into a broader disk that will lead to the formation of planets, moons, comets, and asteroids.
So-called bipolar jets pouring out of the baby star, or protostar, have been captured in unprecedented detail by Webb’s near-infrared camera, enabling exhaustive analysis that suggests HH 211 is only a few thousand years old. .
The images also helped reveal exactly what the gas jets are made of.
The researchers were surprised to discover that they were mostly molecules (two or more atoms connected by a chemical bond) and included carbon monoxide, silicon monoxide and molecular hydrogen.
They expected them to be composed of individual atoms or ions, as is the case with similar bipolar jets, but they believe they have an explanation for why this discrepancy occurred.
Astronomers discovered that the flow of gas and dust from HH 211 is much slower than that observed in other more evolved protostars.
This led them to conclude that there is not enough energy in the jets of HH 211 to split the molecules into simpler atoms and ions.
Despite this, experts said it is “currently a mystery” why the jets are slower than other bipolar jets.
“A very interesting discovery from this new image is that when a star is born it emits highly supersonic rays of matter that can extend for several light years,” said lead author of the research, Professor Tom Ray, from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Dublin. . Studies.
“These beams look like lightsabers from Star Wars and shine with light from many different atoms and molecules.”
Professor Ray explained that because new stars are often “shrouded in gas and dust”, they are difficult to detect from Earth.
But with Webb’s help, he added, astronomers can use infrared light to penetrate through this and reveal star births, or stars like HH 211.
“Stars are not constant: they have a beginning and an end, like the rest of us, but the process takes billions of years,” Professor Ray said.
Similar: Pictured is a lightsaber in the film Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, released in 2019.
Hidden in plain sight: Herbig-Haro 211 (HH 211), which is located about 1,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Perseus, is not actually visible in the image captured by Webb.
‘By developing our understanding of how they are born, through advances like this, we are deepening our knowledge of how our sun and the solar system came to be.
“A very interesting discovery from this new image is that when a star is born it emits highly supersonic beams of matter that can extend for several light years.”
And he added: “The research reveals that the youngest stars appear to emit beams of almost pure molecules, contrary to what astronomers previously thought, and they move very slowly.
“It is currently a mystery how such beams are produced without the addition of atoms and ions.”
The new research has been published in the journal Nature.
The James Webb Telescope: NASA’s $10 billion telescope is designed to detect light from the first stars and galaxies
The James Webb Telescope has been described as a “time machine” that could help unlock the secrets of our universe.
The telescope will be used to observe the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago and observe the sources of stars, exoplanets and even the moons and planets of our solar system.
The huge telescope, which has already cost more than $7bn (£5bn), is seen as a successor to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.
The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of about 40 Kelvin, about -387 Fahrenheit (-233 Celsius).
It is the largest and most powerful orbital space telescope in the world, capable of looking back 100 to 200 million years after the Big Bang.
The orbiting infrared observatory is designed to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA likes to think of James Webb as a successor to Hubble rather than a replacement, since the two will work together for a while.
The Hubble telescope was launched on April 24, 1990 via the space shuttle Discovery from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It orbits the Earth at a speed of about 17,000 mph (27,300 kph) in low-Earth orbit at about 340 miles altitude.