The James Webb Space Telescope, NASA's cutting-edge observatory, has unveiled an astonishing image of Herbig-Haro (HH) 211, shedding light on the mesmerising phenomena surrounding newborn stars.
HH objects are radiant regions encircling these nascent celestial bodies, formed when their powerful stellar winds or gas jets collide with nearby gas and dust at high velocities, generating shock waves.
In this captivating image, the James Webb Space Telescope captures the essence of HH 211, an outflow from a Class 0 protostar. Class 0 protostars are akin to our Sun during its infancy, existing a mere few tens of thousands of years ago, with a mass just 8 per cent of its current size.
Over time, these protostars will mature into stars resembling our Sun. In the quest to study newborn stars and their outflows, infrared imaging has proven invaluable. These young stars remain ensconced within the gas of the molecular cloud where they were born. Infrared emissions from the star's outflows can penetrate the obscuring shroud of gas and dust, rendering Herbig-Haro objects, such as HH 211, ideal subjects for observation using Webb's sensitive infrared instruments.
The turbulent conditions surrounding HH 211 excite molecules, including molecular hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and silicon monoxide, causing them to emit infrared light. The James Webb Space Telescope captures this emitted light, enabling scientists to map the intricate structure of the outflows.
This remarkable image showcases a series of bow shocks, visible to the southeast (lower-left) and northwest (upper-right), as well as the slender bipolar jet that propels them.