The wall of dense gas and dust resembles a massive winged creature, its glowing maw lit by a bright star as it soars through cosmic filaments.
An international research team revealed the first images of the Orion Nebula captured with the James Webb Space Telescope on Monday, leaving astronomers “blown away”.
The stellar nursery is located in the constellation of Orion, 1,350 light-years from Earth, in a similar setting in which our own solar system originated over 4.5 billion years ago.
Astronomers are interested in the region to better understand what happened during the first million years of our planetary evolution.
The images were obtained as part of the Early Release Science program and involved more than 100 scientists in 18 countries, with institutions including the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Western University in Canada and the University of Michigan.
“We are blown away by the breathtaking images of the Orion Nebula,” Western University astrophysicist Els Peeters said in a statement.
The nebulae are obscured by large amounts of dust that make observation with visible-light telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, Webb’s predecessor, impossible.
Webb however mainly operates in the infrared spectrumpenetrating the dust.
This revealed many spectacular structures, down to the scale of 40 astronomical units, the size of our solar system.
These include dense filaments of matter, which could give rise to new generations of stars, as well as the formation of star systems consisting of a central protostar surrounded by a disc of dust and gas, in which planets are formed.
“We hope to better understand the entire star birth cycle,” said Edwin Bergin, chair of astronomy at the University of Michigan and member of the international research team.
“In this image, we look at this cycle where the first generation of stars essentially radiates material for the next generation. The incredible structures we observe will detail how the stellar birth feedback cycle occurs in our galaxy and beyond. .”
Webb is the most powerful space telescope ever built, featuring a primary mirror measuring 6.5 meters (over 21 feet) consisting of 18 hexagonal segments covered in gold, as well as a five-layer sunshade the size of a tennis court.
© 2022 AFP
Quote: Webb Telescope captures ‘breathtaking’ images of the Orion Nebula (September 12, 2022) Retrieved September 12, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-webb-telescope-captures- breathtaking-images.html
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