Photo credit: George Varouhakis
Researchers have spotted massive jets of water vapor streaming away from a protostar in the Cat’s Paw Nebula, the star-forming region located approximately 5500 light-years from Earth. The observations were made by a team from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory using the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), a collection of radio telescopes in Chile, owned by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The jets are a result of star formation, and as it begins to coalesce out of massive clouds of dust and gas, most of the material surrounding it is pulled towards the mass at the center, but some is propelled away from the growing protostar as a pair of jets. Read more for a video and additional information.
The heavy water is flowing away from either a single protostar or a small cluster of them, and the jets are likely to have formed relatively recently, because they are smaller and orientated differently to potentially more-mature jets seen in the same region, according to the researchers.
“Normally, we wouldn’t be able to directly see this particular signal at all from the ground. However, ALMA can in fact detect that signal. This is something no other telescope on Earth can achieve,” said Crystal Brogan, a co-author of a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.