A glowing cloud of dense gas gets pushed through space in a newly released video of a stellar bow shock-a wave of material being created by a powerful jet from a newborn star. Known as Herbig-Haro objects, these high-velocity jets shoot from young stars' poles.
The video is part of a set created by a team of scientists, who used 14 years' worth of high-resolution pictures from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to make time-lapse movies of the mysterious jets. This bow shock is part of HH 34, a jet being expelled from a star in the constellation Orion.
Until now, these short-lived outflows had been seen only in still images, and scientists have been using computer models to predict how the jets might behave. (Related: "Star Found Shooting Water 'Bullets.'")
Now "for the first time we can actually observe how these jets interact with their surroundings by watching these time-lapse movies," team leader Patrick Hartigan, of Rice University in Texas, said in a press release.
"Those interactions tell us how young stars influence the environments out of which they form. With movies like these, we can now compare observations of jets with those produced by computer simulations and laboratory experiments to see what aspects of the interactions we understand and what parts we don't understand."