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Using data observations NASA’s Hubble space telescope, Astronomers were able to create streaming movies of the supersonic jets that release energy from young stars to possibly form into stars like our star, the sun.
Stars aren’t shy about sending out birth announcements. They fire off energetic jets of glowing gas travelling at supersonic speeds in opposite directions through space.
Although astronomers have looked at still pictures of stellar jets for decades, now they can watch movies, thanks to the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
An international team of scientists led by astronomer Patrick Hartigan of Rice University in Houston, USA, has collected enough high-resolution Hubble images over a 14-year period to stitch together time-lapse movies of young jets ejected from three stars.
The moving pictures offer a unique view of stellar phenomena that move and change over just a few years. Most astronomical processes change over timescales that are much longer than a human lifetime.
The movies reveal the motion of the speedy outflows as they tear through the interstellar environments. Never-before-seen details in the jets’ structure include knots of gas brightening and dimming and collisions between fast-moving and slow-moving material, creating glowing arrowhead features. These phenomena are providing clues about the final stages of a star’s birth, offering a peek at how the Sun behaved 4.5 billion years ago.
“For the first time we can actually observe how these jets interact with their surroundings by watching these time-lapse movies,” said Hartigan. “Those interactions tell us how young stars influence the environments out of which they form. With movies like these, we can now compare observations of jets with those produced by computer simulations and laboratory experiments to see which aspects of the interactions we understand and which we don’t understand.”
Hartigan’s team’s results appear in the 20 July 2011 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.
Movie/Data Source: Heic1113 Science Release