The universe is an intriguing and mysterious place and every new bit of information comes with many more questions attached to it. I, like so many others believe this is one of the greatest aspects to learning. The more that you know, the more you learn that you don’t know.
This will be a quick three part zoom (2 on Instagram) that details a strange and beautiful region of the galaxy. The L1641 cloud within the Orion A Complex is a region in the constellation of Orion located in the “dagger” below M42 where there’s a lot of action taking place. Stars are being born; material is being formed by gravity as well as blown away by newborn stars. If we look at the region HH-222 on the annotated image you will dial in on the Waterfall Nebula and it’s pretty easy to understand why they call it that.
This “waterfall” is located about 1,500 light years away and it stretches about 10 light years if you follow its curve from top to bottom. What makes this object strange, aside from its dreamlike or almost fantasy like appearance is the fact that we don’t know what it is. However not knowing what it is doesn’t mean that we don’t have any idea. The leading hypothesis at the moment is that, at the top of the waterfall is a white dwarf/neutron star (or black hole) partnership with the waterfall being a jet of material exiting the system as that’s where a non-thermal radio source has been found. The biggest problem with this so far is that, there is not much in the way of X-rays detected in the area which would by typical if the hypothesis is correct.
Star birth is a very chaotic event and often with the birth of a new star comes directed jets of material fired out of the poles of the protostar like the one we see here at the waterfall cataloged as Herbig-Haro 34 or HH34. The jet of material we see here is only one side of the story because there’s also one opposite this one. The wonderful contrast we see here, especially at bottom left is due to the hot stellar material moving through space at speeds of 250 km/s, impacting the cooler interstellar material that surrounds it. These events also last for relatively short periods of time such as a few thousand years from beginning to end.
NAME: Herbig-Haro 222 or HH-222 for the Waterfall Nebula and Herbig-Haro 34, HH34 for the jet.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: 1400 light years.
HOW BIG IS IT?: The Waterfall Nebula stretches about 10 light years.
APPARENT MAGNITUDE: A very dim 16.
WHERE IS IT? (General): L1641 molecular cloud in the constellation Orion (The Hunter).
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/Dec J2000: RA 5h 35m 31.04s / Dec -6° 27′ 34.55″.
ESA Hubble page with the annotated HH222 image: https://www.spacetelescope.org/images/heic1113c/
ESO image for HH222 & HH34: https://www.eso.org/public/usa/images/eso9948b/
Spitzer data on the Orion A & B Molecular Clouds: http://astro1.physics.utoledo.edu/~megeath/orion/orion_lite_cluster_astroph.pdf
ESA Hubble page for the HH34 image: https://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1551a/
ArXiv page for HH34: http://arxiv.org/abs/1101.4336
Great data on HH34: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1086/324738/fulltext/