Time-lapse Hubble images track stellar jets

Using highly resolved images from the Hubble Space Telescope, an international team has created the first moving pictures of a stellar jet.

Jan 1st, 2006

Using highly resolved images from the Hubble Space Telescope, an international team has created the first moving pictures of a stellar jet. These massive streams of plasma spew from the poles of newborn stars, playing a critical yet poorly understood role in star formation. Researchers from Rice University (Houston, TX) the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (La Serena, Chile), Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ), the University of Hawaii (Hilo, HI), and the University of Colorado at Boulder made the movies using images taken in 1994 and 1999 of a newly formed star called HH 47 in the constellation Vela.

The researchers were able to resolve objects in the Hubble images that were 20 times smaller than objects resolved in similar images taken on Earth. This extra resolution, and the five-year gap between Hubble surveys of HH 47, allowed them to make moving pictures of the stellar-jet shock waves moving away from the new star. The time-lapse images gave them the ability to track the movement of individual features within the stellar jet, both relative to stationary objects and relative to other objects that were moving within the jet at different speeds, said Patrick Hartigan, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University. Contact Hartigan at hartigan@rice.edu.

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