Hubble Spots Brilliant Arcs Of Light Spawned By A Baby Star 800 Light-Years Away

ESA/Hubble & NASA, K. Stapelfeldt

The Hubble Space Telescope has ended 2018 in style. On the last day of the year, the venerable spacecraft shared a stunning photo of a mesmerizing optical phenomenon unfolding just 800 light-years from Earth in a nebula called NGC 1333.

Known as a reflection nebula, NGC 1333 is located in the Perseus constellation. This object is, essentially, a vast cloud of interstellar dust which can reflect the light coming from nearby stars.

Another famous reflection nebula is the Witch Head Nebula in the Orion constellation. A spectacular photo of this particular nebula was shared by Hubble on Halloween, as reported by the Inquisitr at the time.

While the Witch Head Nebula shines by reflecting light from Rigel, the brightest star in the Orion constellation, the NGC 1333 is aglow with the light coming from a neighboring young star which goes by the name of SVS 13.

This baby star is teeming with activity. The star shoots out jets of ionized gas that stream outward into the cosmos and collide with the surrounding clouds of gas and dust.

These fervent interactions have led to the formation of several enchanting features within the nebula. Cataloged as Herbig-Haro objects, five such formations exist in NGC 1333, as seen in the recent photo released by the Hubble Space Telescope website on December 31, 2018.

Image of the five Herbig-Haro objects spotted by Hubble in the NGC 1333 nebula.Featured image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, K. Stapelfeldt

Described by NASA as “glowing arcs and loops,” Herbig-Haro objects are the product of young stars and occur in other nebulae as well. For instance, a similar luminous feature known as HH 110 was previously photographed by Hubble some 1,500 light-years away in the Orion constellation.

Hubble image of Herbig-Haro object HH 110.
Hubble image of Herbig-Haro object HH 110.Featured image credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage team (STScI/AURA)

Visible in the top center of the NGC 1333 snapshot, these formations represent the Herbig-Haro objects numbered 7 to 11 (HH 7-11). Born within the nebula’s glimmering clouds of hydrogen gas, these bright features were carved out by the jets of ionized gas spewing from SVS 13.

Imaged in an eerie blue light, the five Herbig-Haro objects in NGC 1333 are captured as they move away from their parent star. According to the Hubble website, the current distance between HH 7 and SVS 13 is about 20,000 times the distance between Earth and the sun — or 1 Astronomical Unit (AU), calculated at about 93 million miles.

While they certainly make a lasting impression, these beautiful objects were not made to endure too long, explains the Hubble Space Telescope website.

“Herbig-Haro objects like HH 7-11 are transient phenomena. Traveling away from the star that created them, at a speed of up to 250,000 kilometers per hour [more than 155,000 miles per hour], they disappear into nothingness within a few tens of thousands of years.”