What just happened? If you’ve ever been curious about what our sun might have looked like in the early years of its formation, NASA may finally have the answer. Using the James Webb Space Telescope, the agency discovered a distant star in its infancy and expects it to develop into our own sun.
Started In 2021 and operational since July 2022, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has already taken countless amazing photos and discovered incredible information. Detailed again looks for nearby planets such as Jupiter view an asteroid redirection test and even a Selfie. The massive amount of technology contained within the JWST also allows it to detect what resources are involved currently on moons and planets hundreds of light years away.
However, one of JWST’s latest discoveries hits a little closer to home than you might expect. With the telescope, NASA discovered a young star, commonly known as a protostar, in the constellation Perseus, about 1,000 light-years from Earth. The star is currently in the Class 0 protostar phase, meaning it is less than 100,000 years old.
A star does not look as one would normally expect of a star in its infancy. Instead of being a glowing and flaming ball of gases like we see with our sun, protostars are usually seen as dark voids accompanied by something called a Herbig-Haro object (HH). HH objects are collections of gases that emanate from a young star and collide with other gases and dust in the vacuum of space to produce vibrant colors.
This HH object is classified as HH 211 and can be seen in its wild blues and pinks as the gases are released from the young star. These gases will likely continue to leak from the star until it reaches its next protostar phase, Class I, in the distant future. At this point, the star begins to glow and merge, as our sun has done for billions of years.
NASA describes the star and its HH object as a “childlike analogue of our Sun when it was no more than a few tens of thousands of years old.” It currently has a mass only 8% of the mass of our Sun, but over time it will grow into a full-sized star, just like the Sun.
In just over a year of operation, NASA appears to have earned more than its money’s worth with the JWST. Findings like those shown here would have been much more difficult, if not impossible predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope. With so many outstanding images and discoveries in such a short time, it is exciting to wonder what the JWST might find in the near future.
Photo credit: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez