Parallel Jets and Circumstellar Disks Observed by Astronomers in Adjacent Multistar System


Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) on the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope have uncovered a unique phenomenon in the young stellar system WL20. They discovered twin disks and parallel jets, offering valuable insights into the complex processes associated with the formation of multiple star systems.

The WL20 system is situated in the rho Ophiuchi molecular cloud complex, at a distance of over 400 light-years from our planet. The researchers were initially intrigued by the system due to one star appearing significantly younger than the others. Upon further investigation using both MIRI and ALMA, they found that this single star was actually two stars located very closely together. Each of these stars was surrounded by a disk, with each disk emitting jets that were parallel to each other.

ALMA and Webb’s MIRI are capable of observing different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, which allowed the researchers to uncover these hidden twins. The disks were identified by ALMA, while the jets were located by MIRI. The team then studied ALMA archival data to understand the disks’ composition, and the MIRI data was used to reveal the chemical composition of the jets. High-resolution images also revealed the enormous size of the disks, measuring roughly 100 times the distance between Earth and the Sun.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Mary Barsony, emphasized the importance of MIRI in the discovery, stating that without it, they wouldn’t have known about the existence of the jets. She also highlighted the high-resolution observations by ALMA that revealed the intricate structure of the disks surrounding the two newly observed stars.

The researchers have plans to use ALMA’s future upgraded capabilities, such as the Wideband Sensitivity Upgrade, to continue their exploration of the mysteries surrounding star and planetary system formation. Their findings were recently presented at the 244th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Madison, Wisconsin.

This discovery underscores the vital role of multi-wavelength data in uncovering the complex processes involved in the birth of stars and planetary systems. It also illustrates the power of cooperation between different observatories and instruments in advancing our understanding of the universe.



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