The James Webb Space Telescope team announced Thursday that scientists had discovered dozens of energetic jets and outflows from young stars previously hidden by dust clouds in one of the $10 billion-dollar observatory’s iconic first images.
In a release, NASA said that the “rare” find – including a paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society this month – marks the beginning of a new era of investigating star formation, as well as how radiation from nearby massive stars might affect the development of planets.
Molecular hydrogen is a vital ingredient in stellar formation and a good way to trace the early stages of that process.
” As young stars collect material from gas and dust around them, many also release a portion of it back from their polar regions via jets or outflows. These jets then act like a snowplow, bulldozing into the surrounding environment. NASA said that Webb observed molecular hydrogen being swept up by the jets.
Objects were discovered: including “small fountains” and “burbling behemoths that extend light-years from the forming stars.”
Previous observations of jets and outflows looked mostly at nearby regions and more evolved objects that are already detectable in Hubble’s wavelengths.
” Webb’s unparalleled sensitivity allows for observations of faraway regions. Its infrared optimization probes the younger dust-sampling stages. Together this provides astronomers with an unprecedented view into environments that resemble the birthplace of our solar system,” the agency noted.
Many these protostars will become low-mass starlets, similar to the sun.
This period of star formation, NASA added, is particularly hard to capture because it’s relatively fleeting.
Webb’s observations are also help astronomers shed light on how active the star-forming regions are.
By using Hubble data from 16 many years ago to compare the positions of outflows previously recorded in the region, scientists have been able to determine the speed and direction that the jets move.
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