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A star is born -- literally -- and it's stunning

Meet Herbig-Haro object HH 46/47, a very energetic youngster of a star 1,400 light-years away.

A star is born. Meet Herbig-Haro object HH 46/47. (Click to enlarge.)
ESO/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/H. Arce. Acknowledgements: Bo Reipurth

Everyone welcome another newborn to our galaxy. For now, we only know her as the Herbig-Haro object HH 46/47 (and I thought the hyphenated names in my family were clunky), and she's already a beauty. If you want to visit the new member of the family, you might want to leave soon, as she's located 1,400 light-years away in the southern constellation Vela.

The above image combines radio observations from the European Southern Observatory's Chile-based Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) with much shorter wavelength visible light observations from ESO's New Technology Telescope (NTT). According to the ESO, the ALMA observations are seen in orange and green to the lower right of the newborn star, and reveal a large energetic jet moving away from us. The pink and purple shapes to the left are parts of the jet that can be observed through visible light that is streaming partly in our direction.

In plainer English, what we're seeing here is a new star shooting off material at speeds up to 1 million kilometers per hour. As that material collides with surrounding gas, it glows.

ALMA, which was actually still under construction at the time of the observations, provides sharper images than its predecessors, allowing scientists to determine that those crazy, glowing streams of stellar afterbirth are being ejected at higher speeds than previously measured and carrying more energy and momentum than previously thought.

"ALMA's exquisite sensitivity allows the detection of previously unseen features in this source, like this very fast outflow," explained Yale's Héctor Arce, who was lead author on a paper (PDF) detailing the observations.