Astronomy Picture of the Day

Cosmic Tornado HH49/50

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Cosmic Tornado HH49/50


Light-years in length, this cosmic tornado is actually
a powerful jet cataloged as HH (Herbig-Haro) 49/50 blasting
down from the top of a
Spitzer Space Telescope view.

Though such
energetic outflows are
to be associated with the formation of
, the exact cause of the spiraling structures apparent in
this case is still mysterious.

The embryonic star
responsible for the 100-kilometer per second
jet is located just off the top of the picture, while the bright
star seen near the tip of the jet may just by chance lie
along the line of sight.

In the false-color href="">infrared
image, the tornado glows
with infrared light generated as the outflow heats surrounding
dust clouds.

The color coding shows a trend from red to blue hues at the tornado's
tip indicating a systematic increase in emission at shorter wavelengths.

The trend is thought to indicate an increase in molecular excitation
closer to where the head of the jet is impacting
interstellar gas.

HH49/50 is about 450 light-years distant, located in the
Chamaeleon I molecular cloud.

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