Image Credit: ESO/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/H. Arce. Acknowledgements: Bo Reipurth

This is one of the strangest images I’ve seen in a long time. What you’re looking at is the birth of a new star – the star’s first light. The star in question, known as HH 46/47, can be seen at the center of the murky cloud structure; or, rather, its effects can be seen. HH 46/47 is about 1,400 light-years from Earth. The image is a composite of data collected by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a radio telescope array (colored orange and green seen in the lower right hand side) and New Technology Telescope (let’s take a moment to ponder that name) which is in visible light.

Those two jets have an interesting story. They are sprinting away from the star around 144,000 km/h (84,477 mi/h) and become energized (causing them to glow) when it rams into surrounding dust and gas. These jets are moving about four times faster than previously discovered jets of this same type which may either be an anomaly or a fleetingly point in stellar evolution. The purple jet is observable in visible light but the green portion of the jet is obscured by interstellar dust. Fortunately, ALMA is able to cut through that blanket to reveal what is actually happening thus revealing the second and previously undiscovered jet. The purple jet is moving towards Earth while the nasty, avada kedavra looking jet is moving away from us.

Hopefully, further analysis of HH 46/47 will help us to better understand stellar evolution which, in turn, will help us understand the formation of our own solar system.

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