NASA's Webb Telescope Captures Stunning Image of Herbig-Haro 211 Infant Stars
Located approximately 1,000 light-years away from Earth in the Perseus constellation, HH 211 is a Class 0 protostar, akin to our sun in its infancy, with a mere 8% of our sun's mass.
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has unveiled a mesmerizing image of Herbig-Haro 211 (HH 211), shedding light on the enigmatic world of newborn stars.
The revelation comes after Webb's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) imaged the object on August 28, 2022, with the composite image just released.
The detailed findings, described in an unreleased research paper featured in the journal Nature, reveal an astonishing fact: HH 211's spine is primarily composed of molecular matter, with minimal atomic or ionized emissions. The research team attributes this rarity to the object's shock waves, which lack the necessary energy to dismantle molecules into their constituent atoms and ions.
Herbig-Haro objects are captivating regions in space where high-speed material interacts with its surroundings, creating luminous zones of ionized gas. In the case of HH 211, the emissions arise from molecules such as carbon monoxide, silicon monoxide, and molecular hydrogen.
Webb's unprecedented infrared resolution allows for a clearer view of HH 211, even though gas and dust that typically obscure it from other telescopes.
However, this object still holds secrets, with the unresolved protostar at its core potentially being a binary star. Further observations are expected to unveil the heart of this celestial wonder.
The discovery enhances our understanding of infant stars and their outflows, as infrared imaging proves invaluable in studying nascent celestial bodies, which remain embedded within the gas from their birth clouds. The molecular emissions from the turbulent conditions enable Webb to map out the structure of HH 211's outflows.
The image showcases a series of bow shocks and a narrow bipolar jet, providing approximately five to 10 times higher spatial resolution than previous observations. The symmetrical "wiggling" of the inner jet suggests the presence of an unresolved binary star at the center of HH 211.
The study also indicates that HH 211's outflow, while relatively slow in comparison to more mature protostars, consists mainly of molecules. The observed low shock wave velocities are insufficient to dissociate these molecules into simpler atoms and ions.