NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has unveiled an image of HH 211, a Herbig-Haro (HH) object. It provides a glimpse into the early stages of star formation, representing a Class 0 protostar, akin to our Sun when it was just a few tens of thousands of years old and possessed a mere 8% of its current mass.
HH objects are radiant regions encircling newborn stars, created when intense stellar winds or high-speed gas jets emitted by these fledgling stars collide with nearby gas and dust, giving rise to shock waves.
The image, which is captured using infrared imaging, offers unique insights into the dynamics of newborn stars and their outflows. Infrared technology is advantageous for studying celestial phenomena because young stars are cloaked within the gas of the molecular cloud where they originated.
Infrared emissions from the star’s outflows pierce through the obstructing gas and dust, rendering Herbig-Haro objects like HH 211 ideal candidates for observation with Webb’s highly sensitive infrared instruments.
This image provides an unprecedented level of detail, boasting approximately 5 to 10 times higher spatial resolution than previous HH 211 images.
“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,” NASA said.
Observation similar to previous findings
Scientists said that this observation aligns with previous findings on smaller scales and suggests that the protostar may be an unresolved binary star system.
Previous observations of HH 211, conducted with ground-based telescopes, unveiled large bow shocks moving away (northwest) and towards (southeast) us, as well as cavity-like structures in shocked hydrogen and carbon monoxide, alongside a complex and undulating bipolar jet in silicon monoxide.
The latest data from Webb’s observations allowed researchers to find that HH 211’s outflow possesses relatively sluggish velocities in comparison to more developed protostars with similar outflows.
The innermost outflow structures were measured to have velocities ranging from approximately 48 to 60 miles per second (80 to 100 kilometres per second).
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