The colorful snapshot, the highest resolution in near-infrared light, shows a stellar duo orbiting each other
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured the ‘antics’ of a pair of actively forming young stars, known as Herbig-Haro 46/47, in high-resolution near-infrared light. and Scientific News (Sinc).
Although this stellar duo has been studied and observed by numerous space and ground-based telescopes since the 1950s, Webb has taken the most detailed and highest resolution image in near-infrared light. The telescope’s capabilities allow it to look through a dark nebula, filled with gas and dust, that surrounds stars. In visible-light images taken by other telescopes, the blue nebula appeared black.
To find them, Webb has traced the bright pink and red diffraction spikes to the center: the stars are inside the orange-white blob. They are buried deep in a disk of gas and dust that fuels their growth as they continue to gain mass. The disk is not visible, but its shadow can be seen in the two dark, conical regions that surround the central stars, details the US space agency.
The most striking details, he adds, are the two-sided lobes that fan out from the actively forming central stars, depicted in fiery orange. Much of this material was shot out of those stars by repeatedly ingesting and expelling the gas and dust immediately surrounding them over thousands of years.
When material from the most recent ejecta collides with older material, it changes the shape of these lobes. This activity is like a large fountain that turns on and off in rapid but random succession, creating ripples in the pool below.
Some jets expel more material and others are thrown at a higher velocity. Because? It is probably related to the amount of material that fell on the stars at any given time. All of these jets are crucial for star formation itself. The ejections regulate the amount of mass that the stars end up accumulating – the disk of gas and dust that feeds the stars is small. It could be imagined as a tightly tied band around the stars.
The second most prominent feature is the effervescent blue cloud. It is, NASA details, a region of dense dust and gas, known as a nebula and, more formally, as a Bok globule. When viewed primarily in visible light, it appears almost completely black: only a few background stars peek through it.
In Webb’s sharp near-infrared image, one can see into and through the diffuse layers of this cloud, bringing Herbig-Haro 46/47 into much closer focus, revealing at the same time a deep array of stars and galaxies that they find far beyond. The edges of the nebula appear in a soft orange outline, like an inverted L along the bottom right.
This nebula is important, since its presence influences the shape of the jets launched by the central stars. When the ejected material enters the nebula on the lower left, the jets have a better chance of interacting with the molecules in the nebula, causing both to light up.
There are two other areas to look at to compare the asymmetry of the two lobes. Looking to the upper right, a sponge-like mass can be seen that appears to be detached from the greater lobe. Only a few threads of semitransparent material point towards the greater lobe. Behind him, like streamers in a cosmic wind, seem to float almost transparent tentacle-like forms.
Instead, at the bottom left, if we look beyond the large lobe, we see an arc. Both are made up of material that was pushed further and possibly by earlier ejecta. The arcs appear to point in different directions and may have originated from different outflows.
In another look at the image, although Webb appears to have captured Herbig-Haro 46/47 edge-on, one side is tilted slightly toward Earth. Counterintuitively, it is the smaller right half. Although the left side is larger and brighter, it is pointing away from us.
Over millions of years, the Herbig-Haro 46/47 stars will fully form, clearing the scene of these fantastic multicolored outflows, allowing binary stars to take center stage against a galaxy-filled background, the agency notes.