Space is messy. Gas and dust obscure a lot of cool objects behind walls of either opaquely dark or heinously bright materials, and while we know there is stuff in and behind the mess, figuring out what it is requires a fair amount of sleuthing. Sometimes, we get lucky, though, and the hidden objects make themselves known by screaming out flares of light and material that point back to dramatic events. Baby stars, like human babies, are particularly good at screaming.
Recent observations by the Gemini South Telescope looked at a variety of regions containing star formation, and in two very different environments, young stars found ways to make their presence known.
The system MHO 2147 is a cold dark cloud that blocks the light from objects inside and behind it. We know this system hides a young star that is spinning like an unstable top because we see a pair of helix-shaped jets. As material falls into the young star, it forms a hot disk, and the star generates a magnetic field that in turn flings materials out in jets. The jets point in the direction of the star’s rotational pole, and these helix-shaped jets mean that the star is slowly tracing out a circle with its pole, just like a top spun imperfectly may do.
In a very different region of the sky, MHO 1502 lurks in a bright region of ionized hydrogen gas that is heated by young massive stars. This system is spinning out a dashed line of material, indicating that whatever is happening is turning on and off with time. It is thought this system is actually two stars.
We all leave traces as we move through our lives, both humans and stars, and sometimes, a lot can be learned from these traces, even when we do our best to hide.
The gas in both those two systems will someday be exhausted as stars form, planets form, and together they draw material from their surroundings and use light pressure to blast away any leftovers.
NOIRLab press release
“High-resolution images of two wiggling stellar jets, MHO 1502 and MHO 2147, obtained with GSAOI+GeMS,” L. V. Ferrero et al., 2022 January 20, Astronomy & Astrophysics