Science

Newborn star (unsuccessfully) plays ‘hide and seek’ in a gas cloud

Cuckoo! We see you, little star.

While you can’t easily see the celestial object within all this surrounding gas, a new image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows a huge jet of plasma emanating from the young star.

The stream of gas comes from a young star called Parengo 2042, which grows in the usual debris disk that surrounds the stellar nurseries. This jet of plasma, about two light-years long, is also being influenced by the environment around it, NASA said in a statement.

“The gas from the jet has been ionized until it is glowing by radiation from a nearby star, Orionis 42. This makes it particularly useful for researchers because its output remains visible under ionizing radiation from nearby stars,” NASA said.

Related: Best Hubble Space Telescope Images Ever!

And like many young people playing hide-and-seek, the jet became visible accidentally, not due to movement, but due to the ionization process or the stripping of charged electrons from the gas.

“Normally,” the agency continued, “the output of jets like this would only be visible when colliding with surrounding material, creating bright shock waves that fade when cooled.”

The image shows a complex environment rendered in different colors in image processing. Red and orange show the jet and glowing gas. The blue waves are arc strokes coming from 42 Orionis, not visible in the image. “Bow shocks occur in space when gas currents collide, and they get their name from the crescent-shaped waves a ship creates as it moves through water,” NASA said.

NGC 1977 is part of three nebulae that make up the Running Man Nebula, in the constellation Orion. This image was captured before a timing error disrupted Hubble’s observations on October 23, but the 31-year-old observatory is slowly bringing its instruments back online. Astronaut duty missions have been impossible since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.

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