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 carbon monoxide molecules in an object called Herbig-Haro 46/47 they have
discovered that its jets are even more energetic than previously thought.
The very detailed new images have also revealed a previously unknown jet pointing in a totally different direction.
Young stars are violent objects that eject material at speeds as high as one million kilometres per hour.
When this material crashes into the surrounding gas it glows, creating a Herbig-Haro object.
Click on image to enlarge
Stunning ALMA and NTT image of Newborn Star
This unprecedented image of Herbig-Haro object HH 46/47 combines radio observations acquired with the
Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) with much shorter wavelength visible light observations from
ESO’s New Technology Telescope (NTT). The ALMA observations (orange and green, lower right) of the newborn star
reveal a large energetic jet moving away from us, which in the visible is hidden by dust and gas. To the left
(in pink and purple) the visible part of the jet is seen, streaming partly towards us.
Credit: ESO/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/H. Arce. Acknowledgements: Bo Reipurth
A spectacular example is named Herbig-Haro 46/47 and is situated about 1400 light-years from Earth in the southern
constellation of Vela (The Sails).
This object was the target of a study using ALMA during the Early Science phase, whilst the
telescope was still under construction and well before the array was completed.
The new images reveal fine detail in two jets, one coming towards Earth and one moving away. The receding jet was
almost invisible in earlier pictures made in visible light, due to obscuration by the dust clouds surrounding the
ALMA has not only provided much sharper images than earlier facilities but also allowed astronomers
to measure how fast the glowing material is moving through space.
These new observations of Herbig-Haro 46/47 revealed that some of the ejected material had velocities much
higher than had been measured before.
This means the outflowing gas carries much more energy and momentum than previously thought.
The team leader and first author of the new study, Héctor Arce (Yale University, USA) explains that "ALMA's
exquisite sensitivity allows the detection of previously unseen features in this source, like this very fast
outflow. It also seems to be a textbook example of a simple model where the molecular outflow is generated by a
wide-angle wind from the young star."
Click on image to enlarge
ALMA’s view of the outflow associated with the Herbig-Haro object HH 46/47
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 carbon monoxide molecules in an object called Herbig-Haro 46/47 they have discovered that its jets are even more energetic than previously thought. In these observations from ALMA the colours shown represent the motions of the material: the blue parts at the left are a jet approaching the Earth (blueshifted) and the larger jet on the right is receding (redshifted).
Credit: ESO/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/H. Arce
The observations were obtained in just five hours of ALMA observation time – even though ALMA was still under
construction at the time – similar quality observations with other telescopes would have taken ten times longer.
"The detail in the Herbig-Haro 46/47 images is stunning. Perhaps more stunning is the fact that, for these types
of observations, we really are still in the early days. In the future ALMA will provide even better images than
this in a fraction of the time," adds Stuartt Corder (Joint ALMA Observatory, Chile), a co-author on the new paper.
Diego Mardones (Universidad de Chile), another co-author, emphasises that "this system is similar to most
isolated low mass stars during their formation and birth. But it is also unusual because the outflow impacts
the cloud directly on one side of the young star and escapes out of the cloud on the other.
This makes it an excellent system for studying the impact of the stellar winds on the parent cloud from which
the young star is formed."
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