‘Breathtaking’ images of Webb to reveal secrets of star birth

The images, released on Monday, highlight an environment similar to our own solar system when it formed more than 4.5 billion years ago. Observing the Orion Nebula will help space scientists better understand what happened during the first million years of planetary evolution of the Milky Way, Western University astrophysicist Els Peeters said in a news release.

“We’re blown away by the breathtaking images of the Orion Nebula. We started this project in 2017, so we’ve waited over five years to get this data,” Peeters said.

“These new observations allow us to better understand how massive stars transform the cloud of gas and dust in which they were born,” Peeters added.

The cores of stellar nurseries like the Orion Nebula are obscured by large amounts of stardust, making it impossible to study what’s going on inside with instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope, which rest mainly in visible light.

Webb, however, detects infrared light from the cosmos, which allows observers to see through these layers of dust, revealing the action taking place deep inside the Orion Nebula, according to the release. The images are the most detailed and sharpest shots of the nebula – which is located in the constellation of Orion 1,350 light-years from Earth – and the latest offering from the Webb Telescope, which started operating in July.

“Observing the Orion Nebula was a challenge because it is very bright for Webb’s unprecedented sensitive instruments. brightest in the infrared sky,” Olivier Berné, a researcher at CNRS, France’s National Center for Scientific Research, said in the press release.

The new images reveal many structures inside the nebula, including proplyds – a central protostar surrounded by a disk of dust and gas in which planets form.

“We have never been able to see the intricate details of how interstellar matter is structured in these environments, and understand how planetary systems can form in the presence of this aggressive radiation. These images reveal the legacy of the interstellar medium in planetary systems,” said Emilie Habart, associate professor at the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale (IAS) in France.

The trapezoidal cluster of massive young stars that shapes the cloud of dust and gas with their intense ultraviolet radiation is also clearly visible at the core of the Orion Nebula, according to the press release. Understand how this radiation impacts the cluster environment is essential to understanding the formation of star systems.

“Massive young stars emit large amounts of ultraviolet radiation directly into the native cloud that still surrounds them, which changes the physical shape of the cloud as well as its chemical composition. How exactly does it work and how does it affect star and planet formation? is not well known yet,” Peeters said.

The images will be studied by an international collaboration of more than 100 scientists in 18 countries known as PDRs4All.

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