Observations from the James Webb Space Telescope have shown us what our Sun looked like 4.6 billion years ago, when only tens of thousands of years had passed since its birth. An unusual object called HH212 houses a young star shooting out giant jets.
The mysterious object called HH212, discovered by the James Webb Space Telescope, likely harbors a very young star at an early stage of evolution. If we could observe our Sun at the beginning of its path, about 4.6 billion years ago, we would likely see a remarkably similar phenomenon. However, the protostar itself remains invisible because it is hidden in a dense, rotating disk of gas and dust. It is likely that most of this mass will be absorbed, but some of it may turn into planets and asteroids that will be similar to those we know from the current solar system.
The young star is going through the “torture of childbirth”
HH212 is located in our sky near the constellation Orion, specifically near the three bright stars that make up its belt. It is about 1,300 light-years away from Earth. The protostar is still undergoing internal formation, so it is highly unstable, as evidenced by the jets emanating from its magnetic poles.
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According to astrophysicists, jets of gas are a way for a star to regulate its birth process. The gases in the orb must lose angular momentum as they rotate, and are pushed by the magnetic field toward the poles, where they travel at high speed.
The pink and red haze visible in the image (the image is of course colored by NASA specialists) indicates large amounts of molecular hydrogen that has been ejected from the star. Electromagnetic waves emitted by the protostar illuminate these hydrogen clouds, allowing the Webb Telescope to capture them in infrared light. For this reason, we are unable to see the hidden young star (in the center), because it is hidden by a dense disk of gas and dust.
Webb notes new details
HH212 has been studied by astronomers for 30 years, but use of the James Webb Space Telescope has revealed some new details. Its vision is 10 times clearer than anything previously done for this object. Thanks to this telescope, it became possible to take pictures that reveal molecular hydrogen in the clouds on both sides of the star. Observing at wavelengths of 2.12 microns (hence the number in part in the object’s name) allows astronomers to study exactly what’s happening in the jets ejected by the protostar.
Mateusz Tomiczk, journalist at Wirtualna Polska
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