NASA’s Webb telescope captures thousands of young stars in the Tarantula Nebula

NASA’s Webb telescope captures thousands of young stars in the Tarantula Nebula

NASA’s Webb telescope captures thousands of young stars in the Tarantula Nebula

NASA is highly sensitive James Webb Space Telescope captured an extremely detailed image of thousands of never-before-seen young stars in a region known as the Tarantula Nebula.

Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is about 160,000 light-years from Earth, the nebula, also known as the 30 Doradus star nursery, is a very active star-forming region, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA’s mosaic image of the nebula covers an area of ​​340 light years. Seen with Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), the region resembles the home of a burrowing tarantula. But it was actually called the Tarantula Nebula for its dusty filaments captured in previous telescope images.

In this mosaic image extending 340 light-years in diameter, Webb's Near-Infrared Camera shows the star-forming region of the Tarantula Nebula in a new light, including tens of thousands of previously unseen young stars that were previously enveloped. from cosmic dust.  / Credit: Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team

In this mosaic image extending 340 light-years in diameter, Webb’s near-infrared camera shows the star-forming region of the Tarantula Nebula in a new light, including tens of thousands of never-before-seen young stars that were previously enveloped. in cosmic dust. / Credit: Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team

The nebula is home to the hottest and most massive stars known. And it is of great interest to astronomers because, unlike our own Milky Way, it is producing new stars at a “furious rate”.

Studying the nebula also offers astronomers a unique insight into our universe’s past and how stars formed in the deep cosmic past. Although close to us, the nebula’s chemical makeup is similar to the gigantic star-forming regions of when the universe was only a few billion years old and star formation was at its peak, a period known as “cosmic noon.”

The sparkling blue stars seen in the image are responsible for creating the nebula cavity, located right in the center of the NIRCam image, with their own radiation.

“Only the denser surrounding areas of the nebula resist the erosion of the powerful stellar winds of these stars, forming pillars that appear to point back towards the cluster,” NASA said. These pillars contain young stars called “protostars”, which form in cocoons of dust.

Webb’s NIRCam captured a very young star that was still gathering mass in a cloud of dust and gas.

“Astronomers previously thought this star might be a little older and already in the process of eliminating a bubble around itself,” NASA said. “However, the NIRSpec showed that the star was just beginning to emerge from its pillar and still retained a cloud of insulating dust around it. Without Webb’s high-resolution infrared wavelength spectra, this episode of star formation in action would not be revealed. “

The heart of the Tarantula Nebula seen in mid-infrared light by the James Webb Space Telescope.  / Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team

The heart of the Tarantula Nebula seen in mid-infrared light by the James Webb Space Telescope. / Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team

NASA also used its Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), which is able to penetrate the cosmos deeper than a telescope that uses visible light, to observe the nebula. MIRI revealed a very different side to the celestial structure and a “never-before-seen cosmic environment,” NASA said.

“Hot stars vanish and colder gas and dust glow,” NASA said. “Within the nursery stellar clouds, the points of light indicate embedded protostars, which are still gaining mass.”

Webb, a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, was launched on Christmas day last year, after more than 20 years of development, and in July it began deliver stunning new images from the cosmos.

“Webb has already begun to reveal a universe never seen before and is only beginning to rewrite the history of stellar creation,” said NASA.

Fix: This story has been updated to note that Webb launched on Christmas Day but took several months to start sending the images.

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