Watch cosmic plasma jet slowly expand in 14-year time-lapse video

Most cosmic phenomena are so far away that we can't see their movement or evolution over the course of a human lifetime. Every once in awhile, when conditions are just right, we get lucky. This is one of those times.


This time-lapse video shows the evolution of a supersonic jet in the nebula-like structure HH 47. Because HH 47 is, astronomically speaking, very close to Earth - only 1,500 light-years away - and because these jets are moving about as fast as any visible object can, we can actually detect their movement. The brief video you see up top is built from images taken by the Hubble Telescope taken between 1994 and 2008.

And that, if anything, makes it even crazier to try to comprehend cosmic distances. As you can see, the supersonic jet has barely moved in 14 years, at least from where we're standing. But we're actually looking at at jets of plasma that are 10,000 times longer than the distance between the Earth and the Sun, and they're constantly moving at 150 kilometers per second. And for all that, we can still barely see anything move at all. Honestly, I'm not sure the word "insignificant" goes far enough in describing how tiny a role we play in the cosmos.



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Dr Emilio Lizardo

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I'm not complaining. Show it 10 or 12 more times and it will still be cool.