Infrared capabilities map the molecular structure of the effluent
NASA‘with The James Webb Space Telescope captured a high-resolution view of Herbig-Haro 211 (HH 211), a bipolar jet traveling through interstellar space at supersonic speeds. Located roughly 1,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Perseus, the object is one of the youngest and closest protostellar outflows, making it an ideal target for Webb.
The Webb Space Telescope captured a supersonic outflow from a young star
Herbig-Haro (HH) objects are luminous regions surrounding newborn stars that form when stellar winds or jets of gas ejected from these newborn stars create shock waves that collide with nearby gas and dust at high speeds. This image of HH 211 from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals the outflow from a class 0 protostar, the infant analogue of our Sun, when it was no more than a few tens of thousands of years old and had a mass of just 8% of its current mass. – no day. (He eventually grows into a star like the Sun.)
Infrared imaging and stellar outflows
Infrared imaging is particularly effective for studying newborn stars and their outflows, because such stars are always still embedded in the gas of the molecular cloud in which they formed. The infrared emission from the star’s outflows penetrates the obscuring gas and dust, making a Herbig-Haro object like HH 211 ideal for observation with Webb’s sensitive infrared instruments. Molecules excited by the turbulent conditions, including molecular hydrogen, carbon monoxide and silica, emit infrared light that Webb can collect to map the structure of the outflows.
The image shows a series of bow shocks to the southeast (lower left) and northwest (upper right) as well as the narrow bipolar current that drives them. Webb reveals this scene in unprecedented detail—roughly 5 to 10 times higher spatial resolution than any previous images of HH 211. The inner jet “whirls” with mirror symmetry on either side of the central protostar. This is consistent with observations on smaller scales and suggests that the protostar may actually be an unresolved binary star.
Previous observations and research findings
Earlier observations of HH 211 using ground-based telescopes revealed giant shock waves moving away from us (northwest) and moving toward us (southeast), and cavity-like structures in shock hydrogen and carbon monoxide, as well as a knotted and wobbly bipolar jet. in silica. The researchers used Webb’s new observations to determine that the object’s outflow is relatively slow compared to more evolved protostars with similar types of outflows.
The team measured the velocities of the innermost outflow structures at about 48-60 miles per second (80 to 100 kilometers per second). However, the velocity difference between these parts of the outflow and the main material they collide with – the shock wave – is much smaller. The researchers concluded that outflows from the youngest stars, such as the one at the center of HH 211, are mostly molecules because the relatively low speeds of the shock waves are not energetic enough to break molecules into simpler atoms and ions.
About the James Webb Space Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s leading observatory for space science. Webb solves mysteries in our solar system, looks further to distant worlds around other stars, and explores the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.