Press "Enter" to skip to content

Webb’s Stellar Capture: Supersonic Outflow From a Newborn Star

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope captured HH 211, a Herbig-Haro object, revealing detailed outflows from a young protostar resembling an early Sun. The high-resolution image suggests a possible binary star system, and studies show outflows composed mainly of intact molecules due to low-energy shock waves. Credit: Adriana Manrique Gutierrez, NASA Animator

Infrared Capabilities Map Out Molecular Structure of Outflow

NASAEstablished in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Its vision is "To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity." Its core values are "safety, integrity, teamwork, excellence, and inclusion." NASA conducts research, develops technology and launches missions to explore and study Earth, the solar system, and the universe beyond. It also works to advance the state of knowledge in a wide range of scientific fields, including Earth and space science, planetary science, astrophysics, and heliophysics, and it collaborates with private companies and international partners to achieve its goals.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>NASA’s James Webb Space TelescopeThe James Webb Space Telescope (JWST or Webb) is an orbiting infrared observatory that will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope. It covers longer wavelengths of light, with greatly improved sensitivity, allowing it to see inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today as well as looking further back in time to observe the first galaxies that formed in the early universe.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>James Webb Space Telescope has captured a high-resolution look at Herbig-Haro 211 (HH 211), a bipolar jet traveling 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.

HH 211 (Webb NIRCam Image)

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s high resolution, near-infrared look at Herbig-Haro 211 reveals exquisite detail of the outflow of a young star, an infantile analogue of our Sun. Herbig-Haro objects are formed when stellar winds or jets of gas spewing from newborn stars form shock waves colliding with nearby gas and dust at high speeds. 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. Molecules excited by the turbulent conditions, including molecular hydrogen, carbon monoxide and silicon monoxide, emit infrared light, collected by Webb, that map out the structure of the outflows. Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, Tom Ray (Dublin)

Webb Space Telescope Snaps Supersonic Outflow of Young Star

Herbig-Haro (HH) objects are luminous regions surrounding newborn stars, formed when stellar winds or jets of gas spewing from these newborn stars form shock waves colliding with nearby gas and dust at high speeds. This image of HH 211 from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope 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 & Stellar Outflows

Infrared imaging is particularly effective for 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.

Webb’s Observations

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. Webb reveals this scene 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.

Earlier Observations & Research Findings

Earlier observations of HH 211 with ground-based telescopes revealed giant bow shocks moving away from us (northwest) and moving towards us (southeast) and cavity-like structures in shocked hydrogen and carbon monoxide respectively, as well as a knotty and wiggling bipolar jet in silicon monoxide. Researchers have used Webb’s new observations to determine that the object’s outflow is relatively slow in comparison to more evolved protostars with similar types of outflows.

The team measured the velocities of the innermost outflow structures to be roughly 48-60 miles per second (80 to 100 kilometers per second). However, the difference in velocity between these sections of the outflow and the leading material they’re colliding with — the shock wave — is much smaller. The researchers concluded that outflows from the youngest stars, like that in the center of HH 211, are mostly made up of molecules, because the comparatively low shock wave velocities are not energetic enough to break the molecules apart into simpler atoms and ions.

About the James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space AgencyThe European Space Agency (ESA) is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration and study of space. ESA was established in 1975 and has 22 member states, with its headquarters located in Paris, France. ESA is responsible for the development and coordination of Europe's space activities, including the design, construction, and launch of spacecraft and satellites for scientific research and Earth observation. Some of ESA's flagship missions have included the Rosetta mission to study a comet, the Gaia mission to create a 3D map of the Milky Way, and the ExoMars mission to search for evidence of past or present life on Mars.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

Source: SciTechDaily