Spitzer and ALMA reveal a star's bubbly birth

Nov 12, 2013
Combined observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the newly completed Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have revealed the throes of stellar birth, as never before, in the well-studied object known as HH 46/47. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ALMA

(Phys.org) —It's a bouncing baby . . . star! Combined observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the newly completed Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have revealed the throes of stellar birth as never before in the well-studied object known as HH 46/47.

Herbig-Haro (HH) objects form when jets shot out by newborn stars collide with surrounding material, producing small, bright, nebulous regions. To our eyes, the dynamics within many HH objects are obscured by enveloping gas and dust. But the infrared and submillimeter wavelengths of light seen by Spitzer and ALMA, respectively, pierce the dark cosmic cloud around HH 46/47 to let us in on the action.

The Spitzer observations show twin supersonic jets emanating from the central star that blast away surrounding gas and set it alight into two bubbly lobes. HH 46/47 happens to sit on the edge of its enveloping cloud in such a way that the jets pass through two differing cosmic environments. The rightward jet, heading into the cloud, is plowing through a "wall" of material, while the leftward jet's path out of the cloud is relatively unobstructed, passing through less material. This orientation serves scientists well by offering a handy compare-and-contrast setup for how the outflows from a developing star interact with their surroundings.

"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 scientist at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "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."

Noriega-Crespo led the team that began studying HH 46/47 with Spitzer nearly 10 years ago when the telescope first began observing the heavens. Now, using a new image processing technique developed in the past few years, he and his colleagues have been able to render HH 46/47 in higher resolution.

Meanwhile, the fresh views of HH 46/47 by ALMA have revealed that the gas in the lobes is expanding faster than previously thought. This faster expansion has an influence on the overall amount of turbulence in the gaseous cloud that originally spawned the star. In turn, the extra turbulence could have an impact on whether and how other might form in this gaseous, dusty, and thus fertile, ground for star-making.

A team led by Hector Arce at Yale University, New Haven, Conn., carried out the ALMA observations and their analysis was published recently in The Astrophysical Journal.

Explore further: Estimating the magnetic field of an exoplanet

Related Stories

ALMA takes close look at drama of starbirth

Aug 20, 2013

(Phys.org) —Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have obtained a vivid close-up view of material streaming away from a newborn star. By looking at the glow coming from ...

A geyser of hot gas flowing from a star

Jul 03, 2012

(Phys.org) -- The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured a new image of Herbig-Haro 110, a geyser of hot gas flowing from a newborn star.

Hubble sees a glowing jet from a young star

Feb 26, 2013

(Phys.org)—This image shows an object known as HH 151, a bright jet of glowing material trailed by an intricate, orange-hued plume of gas and dust. It is located some 460 light-years away in the constellation ...

Recommended for you

Estimating the magnetic field of an exoplanet

8 hours ago

Scientists developed a new method which allows to estimate the magnetic field of a distant exoplanet, i.e., a planet, which is located outside the Solar system and orbits a different star. Moreover, they ...

It's filamentary: How galaxies evolve in the cosmic web

8 hours ago

How do galaxies like our Milky Way form, and just how do they evolve? Are galaxies affected by their surrounding environment? An international team of researchers, led by astronomers at the University of ...

Study suggests black hole jets get their power from spin

12 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A team of space scientists working in Italy has found more evidence that suggests the energy needed to emit jets from supermassive black holes comes from the spin of the black hole itself. In ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.