17 December 2015

Hubble Space Telescope Captures Image of A Lightsaber In Space

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured an image that resembles a lightsaber.

This cosmic object that seems to copy the iconic weapon of a Jedi can be found in the Orion B Molecular Complex in the constellation Orion, 1350 light years away. This object is a result of jets of gas and dust that are spewn out by a newly formed star. These lightsaber like objects are called Herbig-Haro Objects.

This particular object in the image is HH24.

Herbig-Haro Objects are young stars that occasionally blast off hot gas and other material into space. It is a result of stars ejecting materials that collides with nearby clouds of gas and dusty at very high speeds. Herbig–Haro objects are generally found in star-forming regions. Several are often seen around a single star and is aligned along its rotational axis.

Herbig-Haro objects are named after George Herbig and Guillermo Haro who first studied them in detail. The two astronomers (independent of each other) were studying star formations when they came upon these objects. They both recognized that these were a by-product of the star formation process.

The Hubble Space Telescope Awakens The Force

Perfectly timed for the release of "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens", the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has imaged a cosmic double-bladed lightsabre. In the centre of the image, partially obscured by a dark Jedi-like cloak of dust, an adolescent star shoots twin jets out into space, demonstrating the fearsome forces of the Universe

This celestial lightsabre lies not in a galaxy far, far away, but within our home galaxy, the Milky Way. More precisely, it resides within a turbulent patch of space known as the Orion B molecular cloud complex, which is located just over 1350 light-years away in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter).

Video: Herbig Haro 24: The Force Is Strong With This One

Bearing a striking resemblance to Darth Maul’s double-bladed lightsabre in Star Wars Episode One, the spectacular twin jets of material slicing across this incredible image are spewing out from a newly formed star that is obscured from view, cloaked by swirling dust and gas.

When stars form within giant, gaseous clouds, some of the surrounding material collapses down to form a rotating, flattened disc encircling the nascent stars, which are known as protostars. This disc is where a potential planetary system might form. However, at this early stage, the star is mostly concerned with feeding its Jabba-like appetite. Gas from the disc rains down onto the protostar and, once nourished, the star awakens and jets of energised gas from its poles whirl out in opposite directions.

The Force is strong with these twin jets; their effect on their environment demonstrates the true power of the Dark Side with a blast stronger than one from a fully armed and operational Death Star battle station. As they stream away from one another at high speeds, supersonic shock fronts develop along the jets and heat the surrounding gas to thousands of degrees.

Furthermore, as the jets collide with the surrounding gas and dust and clear vast spaces, they create curved shock waves. These shockwaves are the hallmarks of Herbig-Haro (HH) objects — tangled, knotted clumps of nebulosity. The prominent Herbig-Haro object shown in this image is HH 24.

Just to the right of the cloaked star, a couple of bright points of light can be seen. These are young stars peeking through and showing off their own faint lightsabres. One hidden, cloaked source, only detectable in the radio part of the spectrum, has blasted a tunnel through the dark cloud in the upper left of the image with a wider outflow resembling “force lightning”.

All these jets make HH 24 the densest concentration of HH jets known in such a small region. Half of the HH jets have been spotted in this region in visible light, and about the same number in the infrared. Hubble’s observations for this image were performed in infrared light, which enabled the telescope to pierce through the gas and dust cocooning the newly-forming stars and capture a clear view of the HH objects that astronomers are looking for.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
European Space Agency (ESA)
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