A stunning new image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope showed a blazing blue “sword” piercing a giant cosmic core, as if it were a “cosmic love” painting.
The “sword” consists of twin jets of super-hot ionized gas that blast off into space from the opposite poles of a newborn star called IRAS 05491 + 0247. The “core” is a cloud of dust and residual gas surrounding the protostar, according to members of the Hubble team.
This dramatic interaction between the jets and the cloud creates an unusual celestial spectacle known as the Herbig-Haro object.
The “Herbig Harrow object” captured by the Hubble telescope bears the name HH111, located about 1,300 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Orion.
Hubble captured the image using the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) instrument, which monitors optical and infrared (thermal) wavelengths of light.
“Herbig Harrow objects already emit a lot of light at optical wavelengths, but they are difficult to observe because the dust and gas surrounding them absorb a lot of visible light,” ESA officials wrote in a description of the image published on August 30.
“Therefore, the WFC-3’s ability to observe at infrared wavelengths, where observations are unaffected by gas and dust, is critical to successfully observing Herbig Harrow,” they added.
Hubble’s launch, a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency, into low Earth orbit aboard the space shuttle Discovery took place in April 1990. The first images taken by the pioneering telescope were murky, a problem team members suggested was caused by a defect in a 2.4-meter-wide primary mirror. .
Pioneers fixed this problem in December 1993, and Hubble was upgraded and maintained over the course of four other missions. The WFC3 camera was installed during the last space shuttle flight to Hubble, in May 2009.
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