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Bubbly Little Star
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Bubbly Little Star

November 9, 2007

In this processed Spitzer Space Telescope image, baby star HH 46/47 can be seen blowing two massive "bubbles." The star is 1,140 light-years away from Earth.

The infant star can be seen as a white spot toward the center of the Spitzer image. The two bubbles are shown as hollow elliptical shells of bluish-green material extending from the star. Wisps of green in the image reveal warm molecular hydrogen gas, while the bluish tints are formed by starlight scattered by surrounding dust.

These bubbles formed when powerful jets of gas, traveling at 200 to 300 kilometers per second, or about 120 to 190 miles per second, smashed into the cosmic cloud of gas and dust that surrounds HH 46/47. The red specks at the end of each bubble show the presence of hot sulfur and iron gas where the star's narrow jets are currently crashing head-on into the cosmic cloud's gas and dust material.

Whenever astronomers observe a star, or snap a stellar portrait, through the lens of any telescope, they know that what they are seeing is slightly blurred. To clear up the blurring in Spitzer images, astronomers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed an image processing technique for Spitzer called Hi-Res deconvolution.

This process reduces blurring and makes the image sharper and cleaner, enabling astronomers to see the emissions around forming stars in greater detail. When scientists applied this image processing technique to the Spitzer image of HH 46/47, they were able to see winds from the star and jets of gas that are carving the celestial bubbles.

This infrared image is a three-color composite, with data at 3.6 microns represented in blue, 4.5 and 5.8 microns shown in green, and 24 microns represented as red.