(ORDO NEWS) — An epic outburst from a baby star still in the process of forming has been captured in a spectacular Hubble image.
About 1,250 light-years away, in the star-forming region of the Orion molecular cloud, jets from a protostar pierce the cloud at supersonic speeds, heating the gas and causing it to glow brightly. The result of this cosmic interaction is the short-lived, beautiful, and luminous structure known as the Herbig-Haro object.
This particular Herbig-Haro object is called HH 34 and is one of the most spectacular phenomena we can observe in the Milky Way. But that is not all. These fleeting flashes, which can be seen as Earth-years change, contain clues that may help us understand how stars are born.
For the formation of the Herbig-Haro object, a certain set of circumstances is necessary. It all starts with a baby star known as a protostar. Protostars form from dense clumps of gas and dust in a molecular cloud that collapses under its own gravity. As this celestial cradle rotates, protostars begin to capture material from the cloud around them.
During this process, the protostar can eject powerful jets of plasma from its poles. It is believed that some of the material orbiting the protostar enters the funnel along its magnetic field lines.
These magnetic field lines accelerate the particles so that when the material reaches the poles it is ejected into space at considerable speed in very dense collimated jets. Crazy temperatures ionize the material, turning it into a plasma.
For the Herbig-Haro object, these jets, moving at hundreds of kilometers per hour, crash into the surrounding molecular cloud. Where these interactions occur, hot temperatures cause the material to glow brightly.
This makes it easier to track and observe the jets. As the protostar grows, it also begins to produce a powerful stellar wind. Together, the wind and jets are called protostellar feedback, which is very important for the evolution of a star.
This is because they blow away material around the star, which is thought to stop its growth. This means that protostellar feedback plays a direct role in the final mass of a fully grown star.
HH 34 is a particularly interesting case, as her many bow thrusts determine the length of her jets. The Hubble Space Telescope has repeatedly taken pictures of this star: in 1994, 1998 and 2007, as well as in 2015. This new image is the most recent.
Because of how quickly Herbig-Haro objects evolve, scientists can track changes in the series and watch how the jet expands over time. It could also help map the cloud around the young protostar.
The recently launched James Webb Space Telescope will revolutionize our understanding of these jets. Infrared capabilities will allow him to look into the densely dusty region around the protostar to shed light on how these jets are launched.
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