A Star Is Born

Astronomers have captured some stunning new images of a star being born.

The ALMA observations (orange and green) show the star's gases moving away from Earth, while the visible jet of gas (pink and purple) is moving toward Earth (ESO/ALMA).

The ALMA observations (orange and green) show the star’s gases moving away from Earth, while the visible jet of gas (pink and purple) is moving toward Earth (ESO/ALMA).

You won’t see the young star in these images, rather large jets of gases like carbon monoxide and ionized oxygen dispersing from the forming star at speeds up to around 621,000 mph. The gases begin to glow as they impact the material surrounding the protostar, resulting in what is known as the Herbig-Haro effect. The pictures are of what is referred to as Herbig-Haro 46/47, located in the southern constellation Vela 1,400 light-years from Earth.

According to associate professor at Yale University and lead author of a study on Herbig-Haro 46/47, the gas outflows are caused by an interaction between the magnetic field of the protostar and the magnetic fields of the disk of material that surrounds it.

“The material in the disk spirals toward the star, and when it gets to be a certain distance away most of it goes to the protostar to help it grow,” he said. “But a fraction of that material is launched into an outflow, usually along the magnetic poles of the protostar.”

This is not the first time that Herbig-Haro 46/47 has been imaged by astronomers, but it is the first time it has been imaged by the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) telescope. And ALMA is still under construction.

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