Phenomena

Protostellar Jets

As young stars form, they often produce narrow high-speed jets from their poles. By astronomical standards, these fountains are dense, narrowly collimated, and quickly changing. The jets have been measured at velocities greater than 200 km/s and Mach numbers as high as 20. The animation above (which you should watch in its full and glorious resolution here) is a numerical simulation of a protostellar jet. Every few decades the source star releases a new pulse, which expands, cools, and becomes unstable as it travels away from the star. Models like these, combined with observations from telescopes like Hubble, help astronomers unravel how and why these jets form. (Image credit: J. Stone and M. Norman)

ETA: As it happens, the APOD today is also about protostellar jets, so check that out for an image of the real thing. Thanks, jshoer!

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