James Webb captures stunning exits from a child star

A beautiful new image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows a dramatic scene created by the burst of energy from a young star. A so-called herbic-harrow object, this particular example is named HH 211 and shows the effects of massive gas ejected by the star and colliding with clouds of dust and gas.

The image was taken in the infrared wavelength at which the web operates, which is ideal for observing hot objects such as new stars unobstructed by dust, which is opaque at visible light wavelengths. Observations were made using Webb’s NIRCam instrument.

A high-resolution, near-infrared view of Herbig-Harrow 211 by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals fine details of a young star’s outflow. Herbic-Harrow objects form when jets of interstellar wind or gas ejected from newborn stars create shock waves that collide with nearby gas and dust at high speeds. ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, Tom Ray (Dublin)

This is the second time Webb has imaged a Herbig-Harrow object, with a pair of objects known as HH 46/47 being imaged in July of this year. That image was also taken with the NIRCam, although it shows more background stars compared to the new image, while the latest image shows more detail around the central star.

The star at the center of HH 211 will eventually grow into a star similar to our Sun, but is now only a few tens of thousands of years old compared to our Sun, which is more than 4 billion years old. It also has the smallest mass at just 8% of the Sun’s mass. The star’s very young age gives it such powerful jets because the star collects material from its surroundings and ejects a small amount of that material from its poles.

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As the object travels outward at 60 miles per second, it creates a wave-like structure of gas colliding with other objects. This collision results in an effect known as a bow shock, shaped like an arc, examples of which can be seen in both the lower-left and upper-right parts of the image.

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