Video: Hubble, supersonic jets & newly formed stars

Astronomers at Rice University have released a movie created from still Hubble Telescope images that shows energetic jets of glowing gas being ejected from young stars.

The jets are a byproduct of gas accretion around newly forming stars and shoot off at supersonic speeds of about 100 miles per second in opposite directions through space.

Patrick Hartigan of Rice University in Houston, Texas, who collected the high-res images over a 14-year period, says the phenomenon provides clues about the final stages of a star’s birth – and offers a peek at how our Sun came into existence 4.5 billion years ago.

“For the first time we can actually observe how these jets interact with their surroundings by watching these time-lapse movies. Those interactions tell us how young stars influence the environments out of which they form,” said Hartigan. 

“Taken together, our results paint a picture of jets as remarkably diverse objects that undergo highly structured interactions both within the material in the outflow and between the jet and the surrounding gas. This contrasts with the bulk of the existing simulations, many of which depict jets as smooth systems.”