Crystal-clear images of young, side-rolling stellar jets captured by the Gemini South Telescope’s adaptive optics system


The curvy young stellar jet, MHO 2147, snakes lazily through a star field in this image captured from Chile by the Gemini International Observatory, a program of NSF’s NOIRLab. The stellar jet is the outflow of a young star that is embedded in a black infrared cloud. Astronomers suspect that its lateral appearance is caused by the gravitational pull of companion stars. These crystal-clear observations were made using the Gemini South telescope’s adaptive optics system, which helps astronomers counteract the hazy effects of atmospheric turbulence.
Credit: Gemini International Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA, Acknowledgments: Image processing: TA Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani (NSF’s NOIRLab) & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab)
Postal code: L. Ferrero (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba)

Crystal-clear images of meandering bipolar stellar jets from young stars captured with adaptive optics.

Meandering stellar jets meander lazily through a star field in new images captured from Chile by the Gemini International Observatory, a program of NSF’s NOIRLab. The gently curved stellar jets are the outflow of young stars, and astronomers suspect that their sideways appearances are caused by the gravitational pull of companion stars. These crystal-clear observations were made using the Gemini South telescope’s adaptive optics system, which helps astronomers counteract the hazy effects of atmospheric turbulence.


Young stellar jets are a common by-product of star formation and are thought to be caused by the interaction between the magnetic fields of rotating young stars and the discs of gas around them. These interactions eject twin torrents of ionized gas in opposite directions, like those shown in two images captured by astronomers using the Gemini South telescope on Cerro Pachón on the edge of the Chilean Andes. Gemini South is one half of the Gemini International Observatory, a program of NSF’s NOIRLab, which includes twin 8.1-meter optical/infrared telescopes at two of the best observing sites on the planet. Its counterpart, Gemini North, is located near the summit of Maunakea in Hawai’i.

The jet in the first image, named MHO 2147, is about 10,000 light-years from Earth and lies in the galactic plane of the[{” attribute=””>Milky Way, close to the boundary between the constellations Sagittarius and Ophiuchus. MHO 2147 snakes across a starry backdrop in the image — an appropriately serpentine appearance for an object close to Ophiuchus. Like many of the 88 modern astronomical constellations, Ophiuchus has mythological roots — in ancient Greece it represented a variety of gods and heroes grappling with a serpent. MHO 1502, the jet pictured in the second image, is located in the constellation of Vela, approximately 2000 light-years away.

Excerpts of Young Stellar Jet MHO 2147

This 4-image panel shows extracts of some of the interesting features of the young stellar jet MHO 2147. The upper right panel shows the center of the jet where the pale pink areas are nebula likely to contain massive young stars, surrounded by accretion disks, which are ejecting material to create a cavity. The pink color is caused by the reflection of scattered light from the central source on the cavity walls. In the other panels, the blue areas are diffuse clouds of molecular hydrogen excited by the collision between the surrounding material and material ejected by individual stars.
The image was captured from Chile by the international Gemini Observatory, a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab.
Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA, Acknowledgments: Image processing: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani (NSF’s NOIRLab) & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab), Acknowledgments: PI: L. Ferrero (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba)

Most stellar jets are straight but some can be wandering or knotted. The shape of the uneven jets is thought to be related to a characteristic of the object or objects that created them. In the case of the two bipolar jets MHO 2147 and MHO 1502, the stars which created them are obscured from view.

In the case of MHO 2147, this young central star, which has the catchy identifier IRAS 17527-2439, is embedded in an infrared dark cloud — a cold, dense region of gas that is opaque at the infrared wavelengths represented in this image.[1] The sinuous shape of MHO 2147 is due to the direction of the jet changing over time, tracing a gentle curve on either side of the central star. These almost uninterrupted curves suggest that MHO 2147 was sculpted by continuous emission from its central source. Astronomers have discovered that the change in direction (precession) of the jet may be due to the gravitational influence of nearby stars acting on the central star. Their observations suggest that IRAS 17527-2439 may belong to a system of triple stars separated by more than 300 billion kilometers (nearly 200 billion miles).

Young Stellar Jet MHO 1502

The young knotted stellar jet, MHO 1502, is captured in this image of Chile by the Gemini International Observatory, a program of NSF’s NOIRLab. The stellar jet is embedded in an area of ​​star formation known as the HII region. The bipolar jet is made up of a string of nodes, suggesting that its source, thought to be two stars, emits material intermittently. These crystal-clear observations were made using the Gemini South telescope’s adaptive optics system, which helps astronomers counteract the hazy effects of atmospheric turbulence.
Credit: Gemini International Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA, Acknowledgements: Image processing: TA Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani (NSF’s NOIRLab) & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab), PI: L. Ferrero (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba)

MHO 1502, on the other hand, is embedded in an entirely different environment – a star forming area known as HII Region. The bipolar jet is made up of a string of nodes, suggesting that its source, thought to be two stars, emits material intermittently.

These detailed images were captured by the Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager (GSAOI), an instrument of the Gemini South Telescope 8.1 meters in diameter. Gemini South is perched atop Cerro Pachón, where dry air and negligible cloud cover make for one of the best viewing spots on the planet. Even atop Cerro Pachón, however, atmospheric turbulence causes the stars to blur and twinkle.

GSAOI works with GeMs, the Gemini multi-conjugate adaptive optics system, to cancel out this blurring effect through a technique called adaptive optics. By monitoring the twinkling of natural and man-made guide stars up to 800 times per second, GeMs can determine how atmospheric turbulence is distorting Gemini South observations.[2] A computer uses this information to fine-tune the shape of the deformable mirrors, canceling out the distortions caused by turbulence. In this case, the sharp adaptive optics images allowed more detail to be recognized in each node of the young stellar jets than in previous studies.

Remarks

  1. Astronomical objects can appear very different at different wavelengths. For example, the dust surrounding newborn stars blocks visible light but is transparent to infrared wavelengths. Something similar also happens here on Earth – doctors can see right through you with an x-ray machine even though human bodies are not transparent to visible wavelengths. Astronomers therefore study the Universe across the electromagnetic spectrum to learn as much as possible about the Universe.
  2. Adaptive optics systems on telescopes often use “natural guide stars”, which are bright stars located close to the target of an astronomical observation. Their brightness makes it easy to measure how much atmospheric turbulence distorts their appearance. Gemini South also uses artificial guide stars produced by shooting powerful lasers into the upper atmosphere.

More information

The observations of this image have been published in the article High resolution images of two agitated stellar jets, MHO 1502 and MHO 2147, obtained with GSAOI+GeMS, to be published in the journal Astronomy and astrophysics.

Reference: “High resolution images of two restless stellar jets, MHO 1502 and MHO 2147, obtained with GSAOI+GeMS” by LV Ferrero, G. Günthardt1, L. García, M. Gómez, VM Kalari and HP Saldaño, Accepted, Astronomy and astrophysics.
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/202142421

The team was made up of LV Ferrero (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba and Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas [CONICET]), G. Günthardt (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba), L. García (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba), M. Gómez (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba and CONICET), VM Kalari (Universidad de Chile and Gemini Observatory/NSF’s NOIRLab), and HP Saldaño (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba).

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