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NASA publishes images of an ultra-fast shock wave from the Running Man Nebula

NASA, ESA, and J. Bally (University of Colorado at Boulder); Processing: Gladys Cooper (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Running Man Nebula

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, in cooperation with the European Space Agency, detected a shock wave accelerating at a distance of 1,500 light-years from Earth.

The colorful explosion is thought to be caused by material from a newborn star colliding with gas and dust at hundreds of miles per second, ionizing particles in its path.

On Wednesday, NASA released an image of the cosmic shock wave, which shows a bright blue and purple glow emanating from NGC 1977, part of a complex of three nebulae collectively called Running Man.

The jet glow (orange object in the lower center of the image) is emitted by the young star Parengo 2042, which is embedded in a disk of potentially planetary debris.

NASA publishes images of an ultra-fast shock wave from the Running Man Nebula

NASA, ESA, J. Bali (University of Colorado at Boulder), DSS; Processing: Gladys Cooper (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Running Man Nebula

The star powers a jet of plasma that extends over two light years through space, and curves to the north, as shown in the Hubble Space Telescope image published by NASA.

The gas of the jet stream is ionized until it glows with the radiation of the nearby star, Orion 42. This makes it particularly useful to scientists because its flux remains visible under the ionizing radiation of nearby stars.

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Jet streams like this are usually visible only when they collide with surrounding material, creating shiny shock waves that fade as they cool.

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In the recent NASA image, the red and orange colors indicate the glowing gas flow of the related shocks. The glowing blue ripples that appear to stream away from the stream to the right of the image are bow shocks facing the star Orion 42.

Bow shocks occur in space when streams of gas collide, and are named after the crescent-shaped waves that ships make as they move through the water.

These arcs may follow the outer ionized edge of a disk of debris around the star with a radius of 500 times the distance between the Sun and Earth and a large hole (170 AU) in the center of the disk. The spindle-like shape traces the surface of the material flowing away from the disk, and is estimated to lose mass about 100 million suns each year.

Source: Science Daily