Astronomers Spot Newborn Star Spouting Gas

    November 11, 2013

NASA today unveiled a new image of the stellar object known as HH 46/47. The picture shows that the object is a newly-formed star that is shedding some of the gasses from which it formed. The new observations have been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

HH 46/47 can be seen throwing out huge jets of gas traveling out from the newborn star. Normally objects of this sort would be hidden behind the dust and gas from which they form. The HH 46/47 image was captured using the combined observations of the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/ submillimeter Array (ALMA). Spitzer captured the object’s infrared light while ALMA was able to see submilimeter-wavelength light, both of which can pass through the surrounding dust clouds.

“Young stars like our sun need to remove some of the gas collapsing in on them to become stable, and HH 46/47 is an excellent laboratory for studying this outflow process,” said Alberto Noriega-Crespo, a researcher at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology who led the team studying HH 46/47. “Thanks to Spitzer, the HH 46/47 outflow is considered one of the best examples of a jet being present with an expanding bubble-like structure.”

Though the image is fascinating on its face, the new observations have significance for astronomers. Researchers hope to use the new images to learn about how gas jets from newborn stars affect their surroundings. Noriega-Crespo and his team have already discovered that the gas jets are traveling faster than previously thought, which could have a significant impact on surrounding star formation.

(Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/ALMA)