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Hubble telescope captures spectacular laser-like jet from infant star (photo)

A jet erupts from a young star in the object HH34 in this Hubble Space Telescope image unveiled on March 7, 2022. (Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, B. Nisini)

The Hubble Space Telescope captured a laser-like jet that represents a "tantrum" being thrown by an infant star.

The outburst came from a very young star just starting its evolution, and the image shows a jet of gas traveling supersonically. The glow you see in the image comes from the jet colliding with gas and dust around the star, officials at the European Space Agency (ESA) wrote in an image description (opens in new tab) on Monday (March 7).

"The result," the officials added, "is the colorfully wispy structures, which astronomers refer to as Herbig–Haro objects, billowing across the lower left of this image." (Herbig-Haro objects are bright patches of gas, or nebulosity, near newborn stars.)

It's not the first time Hubble has caught this object on camera. The telescope trained its eyes on the area, called HH34, between 1994 and 2007 (opens in new tab) and in extreme high-definition in 2015 (opens in new tab), ESA noted.

Related: The best Hubble Space Telescope images of all time!

HH34 is about 1,250 light-years from Earth and resides in the famous Orion Nebula, which Hubble has also imaged many times over the decades. Orion is noted for its starbirth regions, and Hubble has an advantage in looking at the nebula; it's the closest stellar nursery to Earth.

ESA added that the new imagery will be helpful for potential future science with the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope, which is in a commissioning period until about June.

"Webb — which will observe at predominantly infrared wavelength — will be able to peer into the dusty envelopes surrounding still-forming protostars, revolutionizing the study of jets from these young stars," ESA officials wrote. "Hubble's high-resolution images of HH34, and other jets, will help astronomers interpret future observations with Webb."

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.