Baby star’s first ‘screams’ are caught on camera in stunning new photo snapped by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

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Baby star’s first ‘screams’ are caught on camera in stunning new photo snapped by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

The arrival of a newborn baby is usually accompanied by dramatic screams – and it seems the birth of a new star in our great cosmos is no different.A

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The arrival of a newborn baby is usually accompanied by dramatic screams – and it seems the birth of a new star in our great cosmos is no different.

A stunning new photo from NASA‘s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) shows sprawling red jets of gas coming from a newborn star. 

This baby star or ‘protostar’ is at the centre of a curious astronomical region called Herbig-Haro (HH) 212, which is only visible as infrared light. 

HH212 is located about 1,300 light-years away in the constellation Orion, much like its neighbour HH111, known for looking like a lightsaber from Star Wars

Scientists think HH212’s star is no more than 50,000 years old – very young in astronomical terms – but it will eventually grow to become the mass of our sun.

The stunning snap shows Herbig-Haro (HH) 212, a curious astronomical object located about 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Orion. The young star at the centre of HH212 is thought to be no more than 50,000 years old, which is a baby in astronomical terms. In comparison, our own star is around 4.5 billion years old and about halfway through its life

The stunning snap shows Herbig-Haro (HH) 212, a curious astronomical object located about 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Orion. The young star at the centre of HH212 is thought to be no more than 50,000 years old, which is a baby in astronomical terms. In comparison, our own star is around 4.5 billion years old and about halfway through its life

The stunning snap shows Herbig-Haro (HH) 212, a curious astronomical object located about 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Orion. The young star at the centre of HH212 is thought to be no more than 50,000 years old, which is a baby in astronomical terms. In comparison, our own star is around 4.5 billion years old and about halfway through its life

What is HH212? 

Herbig-Haro (HH) 212 is an object located about 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Orion. 

In its centre is a young star that is still forming – known as a ‘protostar’ – but will eventually grow to become about the mass of our sun. 

HH212 was discovered by scientists Mark McCaughrean, Hans Zinnecker and John Rayner in 1993 using the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Maunkea in Hawai’i. 

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In comparison, our own star – the sun – is around 4.5 billion years old and about halfway through its life. 

HH212 has been known about for 30 years, but this new image shows the region in unprecedented detail. 

‘Our new JWST image spans six wavelengths and is 10 times sharper than any previous infrared image,’ said Professor Mark McCaughrean, senior science advisor at the European Space Agency (ESA). 

‘We first discovered HH212 in 1993 using the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Maunkea in Hawai’i.

‘We’ve observed it many times since on increasingly large telescopes and with better and better infrared cameras and better resolution.

‘Safe to say though, the JWST images blow all that away.’ 

In the new James Webb image, which is about 2.3 light years wide, we cannot see the protostar itself because it is ‘hidden’. 

Instead, we see the pinky-red ‘jets’ and ‘outflows’ of matter that originate from the star and go in opposite directions. 

There’s also ‘bowshocks’ – curved or pointed waves where faster material has crashed into slower material ahead of it. 

In the new James Webb image, we cannot see the protostar itself, but the pinky-red 'jets' and 'outflows' from the star are prominent

In the new James Webb image, we cannot see the protostar itself, but the pinky-red 'jets' and 'outflows' from the star are prominent

In the new James Webb image, we cannot see the protostar itself, but the pinky-red ‘jets’ and ‘outflows’ from the star are prominent

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, depicted here in space) is the largest, most powerful space telescope ever built

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, depicted here in space) is the largest, most powerful space telescope ever built

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, depicted here in space) is the largest, most powerful space telescope ever built

Surrounding the redness of HH212 are older stars that are in later stages of their lifespan, as well as a distant galaxy. 

The dazzling colour of the jets and outflows indicates the presence of molecular hydrogen, which has been energised by the ‘shocks’ in the outflowing material. 

The new image was captured by the James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (Near Infrared Camera), which sees the infrared wavelength range. 

HH212, which is located near the ‘belt’ of the Orion galaxy, is almost completely invisible to the human eye because it emits infrared light. 

So, even if we were somehow able to visit it we couldn’t see it without infrared goggles, according to Professor McCaughrean.

‘It’s 1,300 light years away, so even travelling at the speed of light, it’s going to have changed completely by the time you arrive,’ he said. 

His comparison with older images of HH212 from the predecessors of JWST, including Hubble, show HH212 is moving. 

‘Because the material is moving outwards from the protostar we can see the jet expand over time,’ Professor McCaughrean said. 

HH212, which is located near the 'belt' of the Orion galaxy, is almost completely invisible to the human eye because it emits infrared light

HH212, which is located near the 'belt' of the Orion galaxy, is almost completely invisible to the human eye because it emits infrared light

HH212, which is located near the ‘belt’ of the Orion galaxy, is almost completely invisible to the human eye because it emits infrared light

In regions like HH212, clouds of dust and gas collapse under the force of gravity, spinning faster and faster and becoming hotter and hotter until a young star ignites at the cloud’s centre.

Any leftover material swirling around the newborn protostar comes together to form an accretion disc, a round flowing structure made of gas, plasma, dust and particles.

Under the right circumstances, the accretion disc will eventually evolve to form the base material for the creation of planets, asteroids and comets.

‘Despite all this gas and dust however, we know that the protostar at the heart of HH212 is a fairly isolated, not surrounded by big dense molecular clouds,’ Professor McCaughrean added. 

‘How do we know that? Because there are galaxies everywhere in this image, strewn across the image in the far distance. 

‘If there was a dense cloud, we wouldn’t see them.’ 

The James Webb Telescope: NASA’s $10 billion telescope is designed to detect light from the earliest stars and galaxies

The James Webb telescope has been described as a ‘time machine’ that could help unravel the secrets of our universe.

The telescope will be used to look back to the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, and observe the sources of stars, exoplanets, and even the moons and planets of our solar system.

The vast telescope, which has already cost more than $7 billion (£5 billion), is considered a successor to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope

The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of roughly 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).

It is the world’s biggest and most powerful orbital space telescope, capable of peering back 100-200 million years after the Big Bang.

The orbiting infrared observatory is designed to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA likes to think of James Webb as a successor to Hubble rather than a replacement, as the two will work in tandem for a while. 

The Hubble telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, via the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

It circles the Earth at a speed of about 17,000mph (27,300kph) in low Earth orbit at about 340 miles in altitude. 

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