NASA plans to use the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to study cosmic jets from young stars to better understand how stars form, and how the jets emitted by these stars interact with the surrounding interstellar medium of dust and gas.
According to NASA, JWST's improved resolution and sensitivity will enable scientists to probe phenomena like this in greater detail.
Astronomers have known about cosmic jets for almost a century. Comic jets are considered one of the most spectacular phenomena in the universe. These thin, straight rays of matter - originating from the centres of black holes, protostars or quasars - sometimes travel several light years into space.
A cosmic jet in space is usually formed when an object produces a rotating disc of matter. A jet then emanates from the centre of the disk and appears like a spintop. Cosmic jets are especially observed during the formation of new stars.
Heber Curtis was the first to observe a cosmic jet in 1918. Curtis noticed a straight ray of light coming out from the nucleus of galaxy M87. Later, scientists found that this ray of light was actually an intense source of radio waves.
"Jets are signposts of star formation," said Tom Ray, an astronomer at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.
The JWST will enable astronomers like Tom Ray to study objects like Herbig-Haro (HH) 212 that sits about 1,400 light-years way in Orion constellation and is about 100,000 years old.
HH212 has a protostar at its centre that will become a fully formed star over the course of the next million years. This fully formed star will have a mass about the mass of our Sun. Astronomers have observed the jets coming out from this still-forming star, which extend across about 5 light-years in space.
"With Webb, we'll be able to dissect the interactions of the protostar with its surroundings that were previously blurred into a single blob," said Ewine van Dishoeck of Leiden University.
When completed, the JWST will be the most powerful space telescope ever built by humans. The huge telescope will replace the Hubble Space Telescope in space and will provide.
It will operate from nearly 1 million miles from Earth, enabling scientists to unlock the mysteries of the distant universe. JWST's 6.5-metre golden mirror (composed of 18 hexagonal mirror segments) will collect light from the stars and galaxies that were formed in early universe just after the Big Bang.
"Webb has higher sensitivity and higher angular resolution at long infrared wavelengths than anything we could do previously. Webb will answer questions we can't answer from the ground," said Alberto Noriega-Crespo of the Space Telescope Science Institute.
NASA plans to launch James Webb, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, in 2021.
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