In this Hubble view, a jet from a newly born star bursts into the gleaming depths of the mirror nebula NGC 1977. The young star Parengo 2042, which is embedded in a disk of material that could give rise to planets, is emitting the jet.
The star drives a pulsing jet of plasma through space that spans two light-years and bends to the north in this image. The gas in the jet has been ionized to the point where it glows from the radiation of 42 Orionis, a nearby star.
Its outflow is observable under the ionizing radiation of neighboring stars, making it very valuable to researchers. Normally, the outflow of jets like this would only be visible when it collided with nearby material, creating bright shock waves that dissipate as the material cools.
The red and orange colors in this illustration represent the shock jet and incandescent gas. Bow shocks facing the star 42 Orionis are the brilliant blue ripples that appear to be flowing away from the jet to the right of the photograph.
Bow shocks occur when two streams of gas clash in space, and they’re named after the crescent-shaped waves that a ship makes as it travels through water.
The bright western lobe of the jet is encircled by a sequence of orange arcs that grow smaller as you get further away from the star, forming a cone or spindle shape. These arcs could be tracing the ionized outer rim of a debris disk encircling the star with a radius of 500 times the distance between the Sun and Earth and a large (170 astronomical unit) hole in the center.
The spindle-like form could be tracing the surface of a material outflow away from the disk, which is thought to be losing the mass of a hundred million Suns every year. In the constellation Orion, NGC 1977 is one of three mirror nebulae that make up the Running Man Nebula.
These elements piqued researchers’ interest since they can be utilized to detect shocks and ionization fronts. This object is found in the nebula NGC 1977, which is part of the Running Man complex of three nebulae.
NGC 1977, like its colleagues NGC 1975 and NGC 1973, is a reflection nebula, meaning it does not emit light of its own but instead reflects light from neighboring stars, much like a streetlight illuminating fog.
Hubble studied this region in order to look for stellar jets and planet-forming disks surrounding young stars, as well as how their environment influences their evolution.