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NASA releases 'baby picture' of a star that will grow up to be much like our sun

The James Webb Space Telescope captured an image of a newborn star that reveals what Earth's sun may have looked like when it was only a few tens of thousands of years old.
ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, T. Ray (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies)
The James Webb Space Telescope captured an image of a newborn star that reveals what Earth's sun may have looked like when it was only a few tens of thousands of years old.

Ever wondered what the Sun looked like in its infancy?

A new image from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has captured what Earth's sun looked like when it was only a few tens of thousands of years old.

The image of Herbig-Haro 211 (HH 211), released by NASA on Sept. 14, shows the outflow of a young star. "An infantile analogue of our Sun," NASA said in a statement.

Located about 1,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Perseus, HH211 has only about 8% of the Sun's mass. A Class 0 protostar, meaning the nascent star is less than 100,000 years old, "eventually will grow into a star like the Sun," Webb Space Telescope wrote on its website.

The stunning, high-resolution image, with shades of blue and pink erupting from a dark center, shows the luminous region surrounding the newborn star, known as a Herbig-Haro object. As the new star ejects gas jets, these winds collide with neighboring gas and dust, producing the colorful outflow we see in the image.

On X (previously Twitter), the image of HH211 inspired different interpretations from viewers.

"like stretching when i wake up from a nap," commented one user on a NASA post about the infrared image.

"That kind of looks like the jet from a sci-fi particle cannon," wrote another.

According to NASA, newborn stars are "invariably still embedded within the gas from the molecular cloud in which they formed," making them hard to document. However, Webb's sensitive infrared instruments make it a powerful tool to record these celestial bodies.

You can download a high-resolution image of HH211 here.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Clare Marie Schneider
Clare Marie Schneider is an associate producer for Life Kit.
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