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Herschel Telescope Measures Water Molecule Blast From Baby Star

A low-mass protostar in the early stages of its development that shoots large gas jets of hydrogen and oxygen (the components of water) out of its poles in pulsating surges has been discovered. Located approximately 750 light years from earth, the baby star shoots these jets at speeds equivalent to 80x the muzzle velocity of an Ak-47 assault rifle.

Each blast creates shockwaves around the star and may even sprinkle the hydrogen and oxygen compounds across its universe. The protostar that was recently discovered is located in the Perseus constellation in an object labelled L1448-MM. It can be seen from earth to the right of the Pleiades, also know as the Seven Sisters star cluster, which is located in the constellation Taurus.

Similar jets have been observed in such early-formation stars, leading Astronomers to believe that all young stars go through a similar formation process that includes pushing particles out of its poles. What makes the discovery of this specific baby star interesting is that it is the first time researchers have been able to measure the flow of the jets using water molecules as the tracer.

The research on the L1448-MM star was conducted using the European Space Agency’s Herschel infrared orbiting telescope. Researchers have hypothesized that the shooting of gas jets could carry on for as long as a thousand years for each star. Each pulse could last a year, which is an incredibly short period of time in terms of astronomy.

According to the researchers, when these stars form, material that will not go into the star itself is blasted back out into space, through the poles. That is what we are seeing with the gas jets. The gas stream is around 180,000 degrees Fahrenheit and is composed of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. These elements are the building blocks of water molecules, and likely combine to form some sort of water-based ice when the elements meet the dust surrounding the star as they are propelled out into space. The particles are launched into space at speeds of up to 50km a second which is about 120,000 miles per hour.

Besides the hydrogen and oxygen atoms, the gas jet streams also include carbon dioxide and silicon oxide molecules. The Herschel telescope is capable of spotting the light signatures of these atoms through the gas cloud that surrounds the L1448-MM star, making it possible to learn more about the gas jet phenomenon.

(via, photo via NASA and Caltech)

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