Stellar jets – bursts of ionised matter, shooting out from opposite sides of a star – can be the subject of some remarkable photographs of the universe. Young stellar jets are thought to be formed from interactions between young stars’ magnetic fields and the discs of gas that surround them.
Stellar jets usually form straight lines, extending for light-years. But a telescope based in Chile has just captured high-resolution images of two “wiggling”, or “sidewinding”, jets.
A paper published in Astronomy & Astrophysics has proposed the reason for these two wiggling jets, suggesting a different culprit in the case of each star.
One jet, MHO 2147, is around 10,000 light-years from Earth. Its curves come from the direction of the jet changing over time, with the star at its centre shooting out matter at slightly different angles.
In their paper, the researchers suggest that this changing direction likely comes from the gravitational influence of nearby stars. They also point out that the curves are nearly unbroken, suggesting that the star has been shooting out matter continuously for the duration of the jet.
The second jet, MHO 1502, has a chain of “knots”, suggesting it has been emitting material intermittently.
The researchers, who are based at the National University of Cordoba, Argentina, believe that this jet comes from two different sources – a binary star.
The images were captured by the Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager – a instrument on the Gemini South telescope, which sits in the Chilean Andes.
Ellen Phiddian is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a BSc (Honours) in chemistry and science communication, and an MSc in science communication, both from the Australian National University.
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