Science.-Hubble detects a fast stellar jet in a distant nebula

11-25-2021 Hubble captured a bright jet from a newly formed star in this image of the Running Man Nebula (NGC 1977). RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY NASA, ESA, AND J. BALLY


The jet from a newly formed star lights up in the bright depths of the reflection nebula NGC 1977 in this image from the Hubble telescope.

The jet (the orange object in the lower center of the image) is being emitted by the young star Parengo 2042, which is embedded in a disk of debris that could give rise to planets.

The star drives a pulsing plasma jet that stretches two light-years through space, tilting north in this image. The gas in the jet has been ionized until it is glowing by radiation from a nearby star, 42 Orionis.

According to NASA, this makes it particularly useful for researchers because its outflow remains visible under ionizing radiation from nearby stars. Typically, the output of jets like this would only be visible when it collides with surrounding material, creating bright shock waves that fade as they cool.

In this image, the colors red and orange indicate the jet and glowing gas from the related collisions. The bright blue waves that appear to flow away from the jet to the right of the image are arc collisions in front of the star 42 Orionis (not shown). Bow shocks occur in space when currents of gas collide, and they get their name from the crescent-shaped waves that a ship creates as it moves through water.

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The jet’s bright western lobe is wrapped in a series of orange arcs that decrease in size with increasing distance from the star, forming a cone or spindle shape. These arcs can trace the ionized outer edge of a debris disk around the star with a radius of 500 times the distance between the Sun and Earth and a sizeable hole (170 astronomical units) in the center of the disk.

The shaft shape can track the surface of a material outlet out of the disk and is estimated to be losing the mass of approximately one hundred million suns each year. NGC 1977 is part of a trio of reflection nebulae that make up the Running Man Nebula in the constellation Orion.

Myrtle Frost

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