NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has unveiled a captivating image of the Herbig Haro object 797 (HH 797), a luminous region enveloping newborn stars, or protostars. These objects form as stellar winds or jets of gas ejected from protostars generate shockwaves upon colliding with surrounding gas and dust at high speeds. HH 797, prominent in the lower half of the image, is situated near the young open star cluster IC 348, positioned close to the eastern edge of the Perseus dark cloud complex.
Captured by Webb Space Telescope's Near-InfraRed Camera (NIRCam), the image showcases intricate details of the protostar and its outflows. Infrared imaging proves instrumental in studying newborn stars as it penetrates the obscuring gas and dust, making Herbig-Haro objects ideal subjects for Webb's sensitive infrared instruments. The emissions from molecules, such as molecular hydrogen and carbon monoxide, excited by turbulent conditions emit infrared light, enabling Webb to visualize the structure of the outflows. NIRCam excels in observing hot molecules, reaching temperatures in the thousands of degrees Celsius, generated by shocks.
The lower half of the image features a narrow, horizontal nebula extending from edge to edge, displaying vibrant colors with more diversity on its right side. In the upper half, a radiant point emits multi-colored light in all directions. A bright star with diffraction spikes and a few smaller stars adorn the scene. Ground-based observations revealed a gradient in the velocity of red-shifted and blue-shifted gas associated with HH 797, indicating motion away from and towards the observer, respectively. Higher resolution provided by Webb clarifies that what was initially perceived as one outflow is, in fact, two almost parallel outflows, each associated with a double star within the small dark region at the bottom right of the image.
The James Webb Space Telescope image also captures additional outflows, including one from a protostar in the top right of the image, accompanied by its illuminated cavity walls. Notably, HH 797 resides north of HH 211, separated by approximately 30 arcseconds, reinforcing the telescope's role in unraveling the complexities of stellar birth and the dynamic interplay of young stars with their cosmic surroundings.
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