In a recent image from the James Webb Space Telescope, the unusual and fleeting explosion from a pair of young stars has been captured forever.
The binary star, also known as Herbig-Haro 46/47, and its outburst are among the Milky Way’s most impressive celestial phenomena. These objects, often referred to as Herbig-Haro objects, are undoubtedly stunning, but they also have great scientific value since they can shed light on how young stars are formed.
A specific combination of components must come together in order for a Herbig-Haro object to form. It begins with a protostar, a newborn star that is still forming.
Denser clumps in an already thick cloud of gas and dust that collapse under their own gravity and begin spinning are how protostars arise. They spool in more and more mass from the surrounding cloud as they spin.
Astronomers think that some of this stuff does not reach the star. Instead, it is propelled towards the poles and carried away via magnetic field lines surrounding the protostar. It is launched away at great speed as a collimated jet when it reaches the poles. It closely resembles the technique by which jets are launched from active black holes.
Due to the extremely high temperatures involved, the protostar jets can then pierce the surrounding cloud material, converting it to plasma. As a result, the protostar, which is still covered in a dense torus of dust and gas, develops two incandescent lobes on either side of it.
So you have this black, dusty glob that is bursting into these bright patches of nebulosity.
Since infrared light doesn’t scatter as much as other wavelengths do, JWST’s infrared sensitivity allows it to see through the dust. So that we can see the tiny stars there more clearly, the telescope enables us to see into those dusty knots.
Since stars originate over millions of years, HH 46/47 is a double star that has just recently begun to grow. Two orange lobes from an earlier outburst are visible in the new JWST image, which is centered on a bright orange-white blob. The stars are there, in their substantial birth cloud.
At the 2 o’clock diffraction spike, threads of a more delicate blue signal a more recent outburst. A dark nebula, which typically appears as a blob of shadow in the sky, is the source of the light blue lace-like material that surrounds the entire formation. Here, it becomes transparent to the infrared eye of the JWST, allowing us to observe the farther-off stars and galaxies beyond.
It is believed that a star’s jets play a significant role in the development of the star. They will progressively assist in destroying the cloud surrounding it, preventing the star from expanding further while allowing the fully developed item to shine freely throughout the expanses of space.
JWST’s image of HH 46/47 can be downloaded in wallpaper sizes from the ESA Webb website.