A kaleidoscopic jet of gas heralds the birth of a star.
Light-years in length, this cosmic tornado is actually a powerful jet cataloged as HH (Herbig-Haro) 49/50. Though such energetic outflows are well known to be associated with the formation of young stars, the exact cause of the spiraling structures apparent in this case is still mysterious. The embryonic star responsible for the 62 mile 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. HH49/50 is about 450 light-years distant, located in the Chamaeleon I molecular cloud.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/J. Bally (Univ. of Colorado) et al.