James Webb captures Herbig’s object – Haro 211

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(ORDO NEWS) — The James Webb Space Telescope captured high-resolution images of Herbig object Haro 211 (HH 211) moving through interstellar space at supersonic speeds. It is located approximately 1000 light years from Earth in the constellation Perseus.

The object is one of the youngest and closest protostellar outflows, making it an ideal target for Webb.

Herbig-Haro objects (HH) are luminous regions surrounding newborn stars. They form when stellar winds, or jets of gas erupting from newborn stars, create shock waves that collide with nearby gas and dust at high speeds. This James Webb Space Telescope image of HH 211 shows the ejection of a class 0 protostar, a juvenile analogue of our Sun.

Infrared imaging is a powerful tool for studying newborn stars and their ejecta because such stars are still embedded within the gas of the molecular cloud in which they formed. Infrared radiation from the star penetrates gas and dust, making a Herbig-Haro object like HH 211 ideal for observation by Webb’s sensitive infrared instruments.

Molecules excited by turbulent conditions, including molecular hydrogen, carbon monoxide and silicon monoxide, emit infrared light, which Webb can collect to map the structure of the outgoing flows.

Earlier observations of HH 211 using ground-based telescopes revealed giant shock waves moving away from us (northwest) and approaching us (southeast), and cavity-like structures in the hydrogen and carbon monoxide shocks, respectively, as well as nodular and a wriggling bipolar jet in silicon monoxide.

The researchers used Webb’s new observations to determine that the object’s outflow is relatively slow compared to more advanced protostars with similar types of outflows.

The team measured speeds of the innermost outflow structures to be approximately 80 to 100 kilometers per second. However, the difference in speed between these sections of flow and the base material they encounter is much smaller.

The researchers concluded that the streams from the youngest stars, like the one at the center of HH 211, are mostly composed of molecules because the comparatively low speeds of the shock waves are not energetic enough to break the molecules into simpler atoms and ions.

The article was published in the journal Nature.

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