Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hubble movies reveal solar-system-sized traffic jams: Giant jets spewing from newborn stars revealed in telescope's images

Date:
September 2, 2011
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
Using Hubble Space Telescope images, astronomers have created time-lapse movies that offer astronomers their first glimpse of the dynamic behavior of stellar jets, huge torrents of gas and particles that spew from the poles of newborn stars. The movies are forcing astronomers to rethink the late stages of star birth. The researchers are also using lasers to recreate small-scale versions of the jets.

Astronomers have created time-lapse movies that offer astronomers their first glimpse of the dynamic behavior of stellar jets, huge torrents of gas and particles that spew from the poles of newborn stars.
Credit: Image courtesy of Rice University

When it comes to big-budget action movies, Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan prefers Hubble to Hollywood.

Using Hubble Space Telescope images collected over 14 years, Hartigan has created time-lapse movies that offer astronomers their first glimpse of the dynamic behavior of stellar jets, huge torrents of gas and particles that spew from the poles of newborn stars.

An analysis of the movies that was published in The Astrophysical Journal is forcing astronomers to rethink some of the processes that occur during the latter stages of star birth. And in an effort to learn even more, Hartigan and colleagues are using powerful lasers to recreate a small-scale version of the solar-system-sized jets in a lab in upstate New York.

"The Hubble's given us spectacular images," said Hartigan, professor of physics and astronomy at Rice. "In the nebulae where stars are born, for instance, we can see beautiful filaments and detailed structure. We know these images are frozen snapshots in time, but we would need to watch for hundreds of thousands of years to see how things actually play out."

Hartigan said stellar jets are different because they move very quickly. Stellar jets blast out into space from the poles of newly formed stars at about 600,000 miles an hour. Astronomers first noticed them about 50 years ago, and they believe the sun probably had stellar jets when it formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

Hartigan began using Hubble to collect still frames of stellar jets in 1994. The jets emerge from each pole of a young star, and Hartigan used Hubble to revisit the jets from three stars in 1994, 1998 and 2008. All three stars are about 1,350 light years from Earth. Two are near the Orion Nebula, and the third is in the southern sky in the constellation Vela.

By lacing the images together and using a computer to fill in what occurred between still frames, Hartigan and his collaborators created time-lapse movies. The movies clearly showed something that wasn't obvious in any of the still images; clouds of dust and gas within the jets move at different speeds.

"The bulk motion of the jet is about 300 kilometers per second," Hartigan said. "That's really fast, but it's kind of like watching a stock car race; if all the cars are going the same speed, it's fairly boring. The interesting stuff happens when things are jumbling around, blowing past one another or slamming into slower moving parts and causing shockwaves."

Understanding what happens in those huge collisions is another challenge. The phenomena didn't look like anything that Hartigan and his astronomer colleagues had seen. But when he showed them to colleagues who were familiar with the physics of nuclear explosions, they immediately saw patterns in the shockwaves that looked familiar.

"The fluid dynamicists immediately picked up on an aspect of the physics that astronomers typically overlook, and that led to a different interpretation for some of the features we were seeing," Hartigan explained. "The scientists from each discipline bring their own unique perspectives to the project, and having that range of expertise has proved invaluable for learning about this critical phase of stellar evolution."

Motivated by the results from Hubble, Hartigan and colleagues are conducting experiments at the Omega Laser Facility in Rochester, New York, to recreate small-scale versions of the solar-system-sized features captured in the movies.

"It's one more tool we have to better understand the underlying physics," Hartigan said.

In addition to Hartigan, the research team includes Adam Frank of the University of Rochester; John Foster and Paula Rosen of the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, U.K.; Bernie Wilde, Rob Coker and Melissa Douglas of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico; and Brent Blue and Freddy Hansen of General Atomics in San Diego, Calif.

The research is funded by NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

A video illustrating the research is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Yf_O-S4FM8

Hartigan's Hubble Space Telescope movies are available at: http://sparky.rice.edu/~hartigan/movies.html


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. P. Hartigan, A. Frank, J. M. Foster, B. H. Wilde, M. Douglas, P. A. Rosen, R. F. Coker, B. E. Blue. Fluid Dynamics of Stellar Jets in Real Time: Third Epoch HST Images of HH 1, HH 34, and HH 47. The Astrophysical Journal, 2011; 736 (1): 29 DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/736/1/29

Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Hubble movies reveal solar-system-sized traffic jams: Giant jets spewing from newborn stars revealed in telescope's images." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110901105419.htm>.
Rice University. (2011, September 2). Hubble movies reveal solar-system-sized traffic jams: Giant jets spewing from newborn stars revealed in telescope's images. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110901105419.htm
Rice University. "Hubble movies reveal solar-system-sized traffic jams: Giant jets spewing from newborn stars revealed in telescope's images." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110901105419.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

AP (July 23, 2014) The Progress 56 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday. NASA says it will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins