July 17, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA

JWST captures ultra-detailed image of jets aligned in the Serpens Nebula

The infrared telescope revealed a cluster of protostellar flows in the star-forming region, shedding new light on star formation.

Inside the Serpens Nebula, found 1,300 light years from Earth, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has detected the jets of several young protostars aligned in the same direction: a first.

JWST's new image, taken with its near-infrared camera, NIRCam, reveals a fascinating look at young stars in formation. It captures outflows as they emerge from newborn stars and interact with surrounding gas and dust. Almost all of these jets are aligned in the same direction. The study, published in arXiv as preprintsuggests that most of the stars and their outflows align because they formed together at the same time from the same region of the parent cloud, thus inheriting its spin.

“Astronomers have long assumed that as clouds collapse to form stars, the stars will tend to spin in the same direction,” study co-author Klaus Pontoppidan of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement. Press release. “However, this has not been seen so directly before. “These elongated, aligned structures are a historical record of the fundamental way stars are born.”

spinning stars

When a gas cloud collapses into a star, it also spins faster. The falling material aligns to form a disk, whose magnetic field ejects part of the material in opposite directions in the form of jets. In the JWST image, these jets are visible as bright streaks of red light in the upper left. The color red artificially represents the infrared emission of molecular hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

“We are now able to capture these extremely young stars and their fluxes, some of which previously appeared simply as blobs or were completely invisible at optical wavelengths due to the thick dust surrounding them,” said study lead author Joel Green. , an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

JWST has observed bipolar jets before in other objects called Herbig-Haro (HH), including HH 46/47 and HH 211.

The J.W.S.T. observing in infrared

Next, scientists will use JWST's near-infrared spectrograph (NIRSpec) to investigate the cloud's chemistry. The team hopes to better understand how the building blocks of life, such as water and carbon monoxide, survive in the regions where stars are born and are incorporated into planets when they form. They will compare the results from the Serpens Nebula with the chemical composition of planet-forming disks around older but similar stars.

“Observing the abundance of these critical compounds in protostars just before their protoplanetary disks have formed could help us understand how unique the circumstances were when our own solar system formed,” Pontoppidan said.

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