This strange-looking view, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, is a pair of Herbig-Haro objects. These objects are rarely seen in such detail, and their study could provide clues about how stars are born and evolve.
Each glow jet is classified as its own object, and the two seen in this particular image are listed as HH46 and HH47. They are located in the constellation Vela (the Velas) and are more than 1,400 light years away.
Illuminated shapes are formed when newborn stars launch jets of ionized gas, referred to by the European Space Agency as “baby star tantrums.” These jets can intersect with nearby clouds of dust and gas at extreme speeds, creating shock waves that form objects.
Astronomers observed the first Herbig-Haro object in the 19th century, although at the time they thought it was a type of emission nebula – a cloud of dust and gas that ionizes with a nearby hot star. More such objects were discovered, and they were thought to be reflection nebulae, which are clouds of dust and gas that reflect light from other stars. The objects were finally named after the first two astronomers who studied them in depth, George Herbig and Guillermo Haro.
It wasn’t until 1977 that the two illustrated objects, HH46 and HH47, were discovered and astronomers finally understood what the objects were. The American astronomer RD Schwartz first proposed the theory that jets from newborn stars created visible shock waves when they hit clouds of dust.
Studying these objects helps us learn how stars are formed. Astronomers John Bally and Jon Morse write that newborn stars are stormy and shed a large amount of matter in their first 100,000 years of life. These outflows do not always form Herbig-Haro objects, but when they do, the objects can reveal information about the speed and motion of these jets.