Big Pic: A Violent Young Star

New imagery from the Altacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array and ESO's New Technology Telescope

A violent young star

This unprecedented image of Herbig-Haro object HH 46/47 combines radio observations acquired with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) with much shorter wavelength visible light observations from ESO’s New Technology Telescope (NTT). The ALMA observations (orange and green, lower right) of the newborn star reveal a large energetic jet moving away from us, which in the visible is hidden by dust and gas. To the left (in pink and purple) the visible part of the jet is seen, streaming partly towards us.ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/ESO/H. Arce.

Like an especially unruly toddler, young stars tend to be violent. You can see one such example in new images taken by the Altacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)--the "largest astronomical project in existence"--and ESO's New Technology Telescope.

According to a new study, this young star, Herbig-Haro 46/47, is about 1,400 light-years away from Earth. The images show the young star ejecting material at extraordinary velocities. "This system is similar to most isolated low mass stars during their formation and birth," Diego Madrones, a co-author of the study, says in a statement. "But it is also unusual because the outflow impacts the cloud directly on one side of the young star and escapes out of the cloud on the other. This makes it an excellent system for studying the impact of the stellar winds on the parent cloud from which the young star is formed."

The image you see here is a combination of radio observations from ALMA and shorter wavelength visible light observations from ESO's NTT. ALMA snapped this image while the array was still under construction. Nevertheless, the array provided much sharper images than what other telescopes could provide, as well as images that allow scientists to observe the speed with which the material that the star expels travels through space. ALMA can also obtain such observations in less time--this one took just five hours, while other telescopes would have taken 10 times longer.