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Cloaked 'Sith star' emits a cosmic double-bladed lightsaber
Thursday, December 17, 2015, 3:02 PM - It seems space itself is pretty stoked for the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as the Hubble Space Telescope spots a star emitting what looks like a cosmic double-bladed lightsaber.
The release of a new Star Wars movie after a 10-year wait has plenty of people excited, and astronomers working with the Hubble Space Telescope are getting into the spirit with their latest release.
Over 1,300 light years away in the constellation Orion, a young star has been spotted emitting twin jets of material from its poles as it coalesces. With the star embedded in a cloud of gas and dust, the entire scene looks a bit like the cloaked Darth Maul from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, with his double-bladed lightsaber.
A young star in the Orion B molecular cloud complex emits knotted jets of stellar material. Look closely, and you may see a cloaked Sith Lord wielding HH 24 as a double-bladed lightsaber (face and hood to upper right of centre, with cloak billowing out beneath, and arm reaching out towards the viewer to grasp the lightsaber). Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, D. Padgett (GSFC), T. Megeath (University of Toledo), and B. Reipurth (University of Hawaii)
According to Hubble:
When stars form within giant, gaseous clouds, some of the surrounding material collapses down to form a rotating, flattened disc encircling the nascent stars, which are known as protostars. This disc is where a potential planetary system might form. However, at this early stage, the star is mostly concerned with feeding its Jabba-like appetite. Gas from the disc rains down onto the protostar and, once nourished, the star awakens and jets of energised gas from its poles whirl out in opposite directions.
The Force is strong with these twin jets; their effect on their environment demonstrates the true power of the Dark Side with a blast stronger than one from a fully armed and operational Death Star battle station. As they stream away from one another at high speeds, supersonic shock fronts develop along the jets and heat the surrounding gas to thousands of degrees.
Furthermore, as the jets collide with the surrounding gas and dust and clear vast spaces, they create curved shock waves. These shockwaves are the hallmarks of Herbig-Haro (HH) objects - tangled, knotted clumps of nebulosity. The prominent Herbig-Haro object shown in this image is HH 24.
Their description may be a little heavily-laden with Star Wars references, but with the excitement of the movie release and the excitement of spotting this particular HH object, it can be forgiven.
While there are more HH objects in this view, which emit light at visible wavelengths, this "double-bladed lightsaber" one was only visible to Hubble in infrared. Filtering out the IR signal from this region of space allowed the telescope to peer through the cloud of dust and gases to spot these jets of material.
Source: Hubble Space Telescope
Related video: Watch Hubble zoom in from a galactic view to a closeup of this amazing cosmic double-bladed lightsaber