NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful telescope ever launched into space, has captured a tightly bound pair of actively forming stars, known as Herbig-Haro 46/47, in high-resolution near-infrared light. This is the most detailed portrait of the two young stars within the orange-white splotch.
Herbig-Haro 46/47 is located only 1,470 light-years away in the Vela Constellation. The young stars are buried deeply in a disc of gas and dust that feeds their growth.
The most striking aspect of the Webb image is the two-sided lobes that fan out from the actively forming central stars, represented in fiery orange. Much of this material was ejected from the stars as they repeatedly ingest and eject the gas and dust that immediately surround them over thousands of years.
The thread-like blue structures are the stars’ more recent ejections, running just below the red horizontal diffraction spike at 2 o’clock. Along the right side, these ejections create wavy patterns, and they end in a remarkably uneven light purple circle within the thickest orange region.
Another significant feature in this image is the effervescent blue cloud surrounding the stars. This region of dense dust and gas is referred to as a nebula, more specifically a Bok globule. In visible light, this cloud appears almost completely black, with only a few background stars visible. However, in this near-infrared image, we can see through the gauzy layers of the cloud, providing more details of Herbig-Haro 46/47 while also revealing a deep range of stars and galaxies lying beyond it.
Over millions of years from now, the binary stars will take the central stage, shining brightly against the backdrop of the vast expanse of space.
😮 Wow. This amazing new near-infrared image from the NASA/ESA/CSA James #Webb Space Telescope captures a pair of actively forming young stars, known as Herbig-Haro 46/47, in the most detailed portrait yet of these stars 👉 https://t.co/ZmkIPRLPSG #WebbSeesFarther pic.twitter.com/rALKaeZJgV
— ESA (@esa) July 26, 2023
Star systems take millions of years to fully form and targets like this give researchers insight into how much mass stars gather over time, potentially allowing them to model how our own Sun formed along with its planetary system.