© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Astronomy with Valerie Rapson and Bob Berman 8/24/23

Herbig-Haro 46/47, as imaged by the James Webb Space Telescope
These stars have a lot of energy to let loose!NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured a tightly bound pair of actively forming stars, known as Herbig-Haro 46/47, in high-resolution near-infrared light. Look for them at the center of the red diffraction spikes. The stars are buried deeply, appearing as an orange-white splotch. They are surrounded by a disk of gas and dust that continues to add to their mass.

Herbig-Haro 46/47 is an important object to study because it is relatively young – only a few thousand years old. Stars take millions of years to fully form. Targets like this also give researchers insight into how stars gather mass over time, potentially allowing them to model how our own Sun, a low-mass star, formed.The two-sided orange lobes were created by earlier ejections from these stars. The stars’ more recent ejections appear in a thread-like blue, running along the angled diffraction spike that covers the orange lobes.

Actively forming stars ingest the gas and dust that immediately surrounds them in a disk (imagine an edge-on circle encasing them). When the stars “eat” too much material in too short a time, they respond by sending out two-sided jets along the opposite axis, settling down the star’s spin, and removing mass from the area. Over millennia, these ejections regulate how much mass the stars retain.

Don’t miss the delicate, semi-transparent blue cloud. This is a region of dense dust and gas, known as a nebula. Webb’s crisp near-infrared image lets us see through its gauzy layers, showing off a lot more of Herbig-Haro 46/47, while also revealing a deep range of stars and galaxies that lie far beyond it. The nebula’s edges transform into a soft orange outline, like a backward L along the right and bottom. The blue nebula influences the shapes of the orange jets shot out by the central stars. As ejected material rams into the nebula on the lower left, it takes on wider shapes, because there is more opportunity for the jets to interact with molecules within the nebula. Its material also causes the stars’ ejections to light up.

Over millions of years, the stars in Herbig-Haro 46/47 will fully form – clearing the scene.
Dr. Valerie Rapson, head shot
Courtesy of Valerie Rapson
Dr. Valerie Rapson

We talk astronomy with Bob Berman and Dr. Valerie Rapson. Call at show time with your questions. 800-348-2551. Sarah LaDuke hosts.

Dr. Valerie Rapson is an Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at SUNY Oneonta. Dr. Rapson teaches a variety of physics and astronomy courses. She also conducts exoplanet research with students utilizing telescopes at the College Camp Observatory.

A native of Rochester, NY, she earned her Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences and Technology at RIT where her research focused on the chemical composition and structure of planet-forming disks around nearby young stars. Her research interests include star and planet formation, exoplanets, and projects that can be done with small telescopes.

Prior to joining the faculty at Oneonta, Dr. Rapson was the director of the Dudley Observatory in Albany, NY. There, she designed and taught astronomy education programs for children and adults, operated the Suites-Bueche planetarium, and oversaw the construction of roll-top roof observatory with a 14inch telescope. She is a National Astronomy Ambassador and was awarded the 2018 Emerging Leader Award by Girls Inc. of the Greater Capital Region for being a role model to young women who aspire to become scientists.

Bob Berman, head shot
Bob Berman
Bob Berman

Bob Berman is one of the best-known and most widely-read astronomers in the world. He is able to translate complex scientific concepts into language that is understandable to the casual observer yet meaningful to the most advanced. His written work has appeared in Discover Magazine and Astronomy Magazine. Bob is also the Astronomy Editor for The Old Farmers Almanac.

Bob Berman is the author of a dozen books including, Zapped: From Infrared to X-rays, The Sun's Heartbeat, Zoom: How Everything Moves and Earth-Shattering: Violent Supernovas, Galactic Explosions, Biological Mayhem, Nuclear Meltdowns, and Other Hazards to Life in Our Univererse.

Bob Berman is the host of Strange Universe, which is produced and airs at WAMC.

Related Content
  • Automotive expert Gordon Fricke is back to help keep your wheels on the road. Call with your question. 800-348-2551. Ray Graf hosts.
  • Look, up in the sky! It's a bird. That's all, just a bird. We welcome back Rich Guthrie and Julie Hart for our monthly dose of ornithology. Call in! 800-348-2551. WAMC's Ray Graf hosts.
  • Our favorite green thumbs are back at 2pm to take your questions. 800-348-2551 is the number to call. Ray Graf hosts.