Baby Star Pukes Cosmic Matter! Get A Bib, Yo.
Human babies seem like centers of mess, despair, and occasional beauty. For me, baby stars are considerably more beautiful, though it appears that their fucking effects cause much more of a cosmic mess. With them vomiting cosmic goop and shit everywhere. There’s probably someone who can explain it better than me.
I love this image! It shows the havoc caused by young stars as they spew out material at speed upwards of a million kilometers per hour. What you’re seeing is actually a small part of a star-forming region surrounding the star R Corona Australis, a nearby 550 light years away. It’s a densely packed cloud of thick dust and gas, completely hiding the stars inside and behind it. It’s not terribly big, only a couple of light years across – compare that to the Orion Nebula, which is 20 light years across (and that’s only the visible portion; it’s part of a dark cloud that’s much larger).
Even though it’s small, it’s the birthplace of many stars. Two such stars reveal their presence here; not by their light, but by blowing out long streamers of matter called jets. Technically, they’re called Herbig Haro objects (I have an explanation of these objects in an earlier post, which also has a stunningly lovely picture). One of them is the bright series of bow shocks leading right down to that brightly glowing blob of gas at the bottom of the picture. The curved waves are usually caused by episodic spasms from the star, expelling gusts of wind which interact with previously blown-out material. The long, bright streamer to the left of the jet is probably material compressed by the jet as it expands. It’s not actually part of the jet itself, and shines by reflected starlight.
That blob at the bottom is very interesting. It’s probably where the jet from the star has plowed into so much material that it’s slowed down radically, and vast amounts of matter have piled up in front like snow in a snowplow. The gas in there must be violently turbulent, and you can see the filaments of gas flowing around it.
Young stars spew material out at speeds of a million kilometers per hour. Good lord. For more on this picture, hit up the rest of Phil Plait’s article.