Cosmic Jets and a Cloudy Existence


Image Credit & Copyright: European Southern Observatory (ESO) New Technology Telescope (NTT) at La Silla Observatory, Chile.

What do you do when your local region of the universe is glum and cloudy; you create some color! Within this region of relatively dense star forming molecular hydrogen (Bok Globule) in the southern constellation Vela, a newborn star is coming to life. This protostar is firing off jets of material from its polar regions at speeds around one million km/h. The two jets, one pointed in our general direction (chill, we’re not in danger) while the other fires off in the opposite direction.

What is a Herbig-Haro (HH) Object?

While newborn stars are busy accreting material like knowledge in order to grow and be the best stars they can be; some of that material is being shot off into the surrounding cosmos from the stars polar regions or perpendicular to the plane of that star in a process called bipolar outflow. When the rapid jets of hot material that can reach many thousands of degrees Kelvin impacts the surrounding material (usually associated with Bok Globules or the same material that helped create the star) it heats that material and produces ionized gas which then renders the jets and shock wave aglow. As the gas that trails the hot shock wave cools, the electrons and ions recombine which in many images, can be seen as a second color within the shockwave itself.

The odd name comes from the two discoverer’s names; American astronomers George Herbig and Mexican astronomer Guillermo Haro. While much is known about these objects such as where they can be found and what they’re composed of, many fundamental questions remain. What causes the star to fire off these jets and what purpose do they serve, are questions that still need to be addressed. The going hypothesis is that they may be associated with the stars magnetic fields and that they may also actually help the stars formation by bleeding off excess angular momentum from the accreting material which would actually help slow and stabilize the system, allowing the protostar to successfully accrete into a successful star.

NAME: Herbig-Haro Object 46 & 47 or HH 46 & HH 47.

WHAT IS IT?: Jets of material being fired in opposite directions from a newborn star.

HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: Approximately 1,400 light years.

HOW BIG IS IT?: Unsure; they can stretch light years.


WHERE IS IT? (General): Southern constellation, Vela (The Sails).

WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 8h 25m 44.37s / DEC -51° 0′ 25.76″.

ESO page for this image:

ESO ALMA Observatory page for this image:

Image | This entry was posted in Astronomical Events, Astronomy (Learning), Astrophotography (DSOs), Images, Stars (Non-Sun Related) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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