Skip to main content

Hubble captures the beautiful ‘tantrums of a baby star’

Herbig-Haro objects are some of the rarer sights in the night sky, taking the form of thin spindly jets of matter floating among the surrounding gas and stars. The two Herbig-Haro objects cataloged as HH46 and HH47, seen in this image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, were spotted in the constellation of Vela (the Sails), at a distance of over 1,400 light-years from Earth.
Herbig-Haro objects are some of the rarer sights in the night sky, taking the form of thin spindly jets of matter floating among the surrounding gas and stars. The two Herbig-Haro objects cataloged as HH46 and HH47, seen in this image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, were spotted in the constellation of Vela (the Sails), at a distance of over 1,400 light-years from Earth. ESA/Hubble & NASA, B. Nisini

This strange-looking sight, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, is a pair of Herbig-Haro objects. These objects are rarely spotted in such detail, and studying them could give clues to how stars and born and evolve.

Each jet of brightness is classified as its own object, with the two seen in this particular image cataloged as HH46 and HH47. They are located in the constellation of Vela (the Sails) and are more than 1,400 light-years away.

The illuminated shapes form when newborn stars throw off jets of ionized gas, which the European Space Agency refers to as the “tantrums of a baby star.” These jets can intersect with nearby clouds of dust and gas at extreme speeds, creating shockwaves that form the objects.

Astronomers observed the first Herbig-Haro object in the 19th century, though at the time they thought it was a type of emission nebula — a cloud of dust and gas that becomes ionized by a nearby hot star. More such objects were discovered, and they were thought to be reflection nebulae, which are cloud of dust and gas which reflect the light from other stars. The objects were eventually given their name after the first two astronomers who studied them in-depth, George Herbig and Guillermo Haro.

It wasn’t until 1977 that the two objects pictured, HH46 and HH47, were discovered, and astronomers finally understood what the objects were. American astronomer R.D. Schwartz first proposed the theory that jets from newborn stars were creating visible shockwaves when they hit clouds of dust.

Studying these objects helps us to learn about how stars form. Astronomers John Bally and Jon Morse write that newborn stars are tempestuous, and throw off a large amount of matter in their first 100,000 years of life. These outflows don’t always form Herbig-Haro objects, but when they do, the objects can reveal information about the speed and motion of these jets.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
See what James Webb and Hubble are observing right now with this tool
james webb hubble live tracker screenshot 2024 03 06 220259

If you're looking for a relaxing way to peruse the fascinating sights of space on your lunch break, then a newly updated tool from NASA has you covered. The Space Telescope Live tools show the current targets of the James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope, letting you browse the cosmos from the perspective of two of the hardest-working telescopes out there.

You can visit the web-based tools at WebbTelescope for the James Webb Space Telescope and HubbleSite for the Hubble Space Telescope. Clicking on a link will bring you to a portal showing the current and past observations of the telescope and a ton of detail about the observations.

Read more
Hubble spots a massive star forming amid clouds of dust and gas
This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is a relatively close star-forming region known as IRAS 16562-3959.

A stunning new image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the birth of a new, massive star at around 30 times the mass of our sun. Nestled with a nearby star-forming region called IRAS 16562-3959, the baby star is located within our galaxy and around 5,900 light-years from Earth.

You can see the sparkle of bright stars throughout the image, with the star-forming region visible as the orange-colored clouds of dust and gas stretching diagonally across the frame. These clouds are where dust and gas clump together to form knots, gradually attracting more dust and gas, growing over time to become protostars.

Read more
Hubble spies baby stars being born amid chaos of interacting galaxies
Galaxy AM 1054-325 has been distorted into an S-shape from a normal pancake-like spiral shape by the gravitational pull of a neighboring galaxy, seen in this Hubble Space Telescope image. A consequence of this is that newborn clusters of stars form along a stretched-out tidal tail for thousands of light-years, resembling a string of pearls. They form when knots of gas gravitationally collapse to create about 1 million newborn stars per cluster.

When two galaxies collide, the results can be destructive, with one of the galaxies ending up ripped apart, but it can also be constructive too. In the swirling masses of gas and dust pulled around by the gravitational forces of interacting galaxies, there can be bursts of star formation, creating new generations of stars. The Hubble Space Telescope recently captured one such hotbed of star formation in galaxy AM 1054-325, which has been distorted into an unusual shape due to the gravitational tugging of a nearby galaxy.

Galaxy AM 1054-325 has been distorted into an S-shape from a normal pancake-like spiral shape by the gravitational pull of a neighboring galaxy, as seen in this Hubble Space Telescope image. A consequence of this is that newborn clusters of stars form along a stretched-out tidal tail for thousands of light-years, resembling a string of pearls. NASA, ESA, STScI, Jayanne English (University of Manitoba)

Read more