MUSE spots a jet bursting from an infant star

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But deep inside N180 B hides a smaller yet equally breathtaking sight. Using the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on the ESO’s Very Large Telescope, researchers probed the nebula N180 B and spotted a fledgling star firing a huge jet into space. The jet of this young star — which is about 12 times the mass of the Sun — is nearly 33 light-years long, making it one of the longest such jets observed to date. Furthermore, this is the first time astronomers have used visible light to spot such a jet around a newly formed star — at least in a galaxy other than the Milky Way.

According to a press release from the ESO, such jets are typically found bursting from stellar accretion disks, which are chaotically swirling whirlpools of hot gas and dust that surround many young stars. By analyzing the jet, dubbed HH 1177, astronomers recognized that it’s extremely narrow, or collimated, much like a laser beam.

Though such narrow jets have commonly been observed around low-mass baby stars, very few have been found around young high-mass stars (greater than eight solar masses) — though they have seen them before. However, by finding this rare example of a high-mass infant star shooting a powerful jet from its accretion disk, astronomers have collected yet another piece of evidence that suggests little stars are not the only ones that throw tantrums in their early years.


This video zooms in on the Large Magellanic Cloud to reveal a close-up look of the stellar nursery known as N180 B, where the jet was found. Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org). Music: Astral Electronic





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