Since 1994, Hubble Space Telescope has been taking pictures of newly-born stars in the Orion Nebula and the southern constellation of Vela — two regions of space located roughly 1350 light-years from Earth.
Now, by stitching these pictures together, astronomers have created time-lapse movies of transient stellar phenomena known as "Herbig-Haro objects," beautiful jets of glowing gas (emitted by newly born stars) that are roughly ten times the width of the Solar System and travel through space at several hundred kilometers per second.
"For the first time we can actually observe how these jets interact with their surroundings by watching these time-lapse movies," said astronomer Patrick Hartigan, who led an international team of scientists in collecting the images and piecing them together. He adds:
Those interactions tell us how young stars influence the environments out of which they form. With movies like these, we can now compare observations of jets with those produced by computer simulations and laboratory experiments to see which aspects of the interactions we understand and which we don't understand.
The movies, compiled in the video up top, depict jets HH 1, HH 2, HH 34, HH 46, and HH 47. HH 1 and HH 2 are actually a pair of jets being ejected in opposite directions by a single star, as are HH 46 and HH47. Pictures of the jets were taken at various points in time between 1994 and 2008.
When stitched together, the images reveal that the stars eject jets not in a steady stream, but in "clumps" of gas that move at varying speeds as they're jettisoned by the young stars. When clumps of gas moving at different speeds collide, they give rise to what are known as "bow shocks."