Infrared capabilities determine the molecular structure of the outflow
NASA‘s James Webb Space Telescope A high-resolution look at Herbig-Haro 211 (HH 211), a bipolar jet traveling through interstellar space at supersonic speeds. Located approximately 1,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Perseus, this object is one of the smallest and closest protostellar outflows, making it an ideal target for Webb.
The Webb Space Telescope captures the supersonic flow of a young star
Herbig-Haro (HH) objects are bright regions surrounding newborn stars, formed when stellar winds or jets of gas emanating from these newborn stars form 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 an outflow from a magnitude 0 protostar, an infantile counterpart to our Sun when it was no more than a few tens of thousands of years old and with a mass only 8% of its present-day Sun. (It will eventually grow into a star like the Sun.)
Infrared imaging and stellar jets
Infrared imaging is particularly effective for studying newborn stars and their outflows, because such stars are always still embedded within the gas of the molecular cloud in which they formed. The infrared emission of the star’s outflows penetrates the opaque gas and dust, making a Herbig-Haro object like HH 211 ideal for observation with NB’s sensitive infrared instruments. Molecules excited by turbulent conditions, including molecular hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and silicon monoxide, emit infrared light that Webb can collect to map the structure of the outflows.
The image shows a series of arc shocks oriented to the southeast (bottom left) and northwest (top right) as well as the narrow dipole current that powers them. Webb reveals this scene in unprecedented detail – approximately 5 to 10 times higher spatial resolution than any previous images of HH 211. The inner flow is seen to “vibrate” with mirror symmetry on either side of the central protostar. This is consistent with observations on smaller scales and indicates that the protostar may in fact be an as-yet-unresolved binary star.
Previous observations and research results
Previous observations of HH 211 using ground-based telescopes revealed giant forearms moving away from us (northwest) and moving toward us (southeast) and cavity-like structures in the shocked hydrogen and carbon monoxide, respectively, as well as a knotted, oscillating dipole jet. In silicon monoxide. 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 outflow.
The team measured the velocities of the inner outflow structures to be about 48-60 miles per second (80 to 100 kilometers per second). However, the difference in velocity between these sections of outflow and the leading material they collide with – the shock wave – is much smaller. The researchers concluded that outflows from younger stars, such as those at the center of HH 211, consist mostly of molecules, because the relatively low shock wave velocities are not energetic enough to break up the molecules into simpler atoms and ions.
About the James Webb Space Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s leading space science observatory. Webb solves the mysteries of our solar system, looks beyond the distant worlds around other stars, and explores the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. WEB is an international program led by NASA with its partners the European Space Agency (ESA).European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
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