Pic of the Week: Stellar Tantrum

Image (Credit): Hubble image of an outburst from an infant star. (ESA/Hubble & NASA, B. Nisini)

This week’s image is from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. While it may look like an enormous interstellar stingray, it actually shows gas streaming from a newly-formed star. Here is the story from the European Space Agency (ESA):

An energetic outburst from an infant star streaks across this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This stellar tantrum – produced by an extremely young star in the earliest phase of formation – consists of an incandescent jet of gas travelling at supersonic speeds. As the jet collides with material surrounding the still-forming star, the shock heats this material and causes it to glow. The result is the colorfully wispy structures, which astronomers refer to as Herbig–Haro objects, billowing across the lower right of this image.

Herbig–Haro objects are seen to evolve and change significantly over just a few years. This particular object, called HH34, was previously captured by Hubble between 1994 and 2007, and again in glorious detail in 2015. HH34 resides approximately 1,250 light-years from Earth in the Orion Nebula, a large region of star formation visible to the unaided eye. The Orion Nebula is one of the closest sites of widespread star formation to Earth, and as such has been pored over by astronomers in search of insights into how stars and planetary systems are born.