The most powerful telescope ever launched into space, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, has captured a densely bound pair of actively forming stars, known as Herbig-Haro 46/47, in high-resolution near-infrared radiation. This is the most accurate depiction of the two juvenile stars contained within the orange-white blotch.
In the Vela Constellation, Herbig-Haro 46/47 is only 1,470 light-years away. The juvenile stars are profoundly submerged in a disc of gas and dust that nourishes their development.
The most remarkable aspect of the Webb image is the fiery orange appendages that radiate out from the actively forming central stars. Over the course of thousands of years, the stars repeatedly consume and expel the gas and dust that surrounds them.
The blue structures resembling threads are more recent stellar ejections, running just below the horizontal red diffraction spike at 2 o’clock. Along the right side, these ejections produce undulating patterns, which terminate in an incredibly irregular light purple circle within the orange region with the greatest density.
The effervescent blue cloud encompassing the stars is another significant element of this image. This region of concentrated dust and gas is a nebula, more precisely a Bok globule. This cloud appears nearly entirely black in visible light, with only a few background stars visible. However, in this near-infrared image, we are able to see through the cloud’s hazy strata, providing greater clarity of Herbig-Haro 46/47 and revealing a vast array of stars and galaxies beyond it.
In millions of years, binary stars will shine vividly against the immense expanse of space to become the focal point.
😮 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
The formation of a star system takes millions of years, and these targets provide researchers with information on how much mass stars amass over time, potentially allowing them to model the formation of our Sun and its planetary system.