An amazing region of dust and gas lies more than 1,300 light-years from Earth called the Orion Nebula. On Monday, a team of astronomers from around the world released the most detailed image ever of this region rich in star formation captured by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
Els Peters, an astronomer and professor at Western University in London, Ontario, is one of the principal investigators of the JWST monitoring program known as PDRs4AlIShe said she was pleased with the photo.
“It’s just amazing detail, how accurate the images are, and all that stringy structure,” she told CBC News.
The composite image – which used several filters – was captured using JWST’s NIRCam tool. It shows the seemingly windswept region of blue gas, a bright star that glows gas around it, and most importantly, a dense region of dust and gas, known as the Orion Bar. But the most interesting are the threads, globules and young stars.
While the area – only a small part of The largest Orion Nebulaone of the closest regions of star formation – studied with other telescopes, most notably the Hubble Space Telescope, sees JWST in infrared light capable of seeing beyond optical light, gazing through thick dust, revealing to the human eye this is hidden .
This is what Peters is most interested in exploring. Her team has been studying the area since 2017 and is eagerly awaiting the new image. Previously, her team used NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which can also see in the infrared — but not nearly as accurately as JWST can provide.
But this is more than just a pretty picture. It’s part of a study to explore how stars and planets form, shedding more light on how our solar system and planet formed. He is looking for our origin.
“We’ve never been able to see the intricately minute details of how interstellar matter forms in these environments, and learn how planetary systems might form in the presence of this harsh radiation,” said Emily Habart, associate professor at the Institut d’Astrophysics Spatiale in Paris. In a statement.
Meanwhile, Peters said, young, massive stars – and even those already in star-forming regions – are shooting out intense ultraviolet rays into the surrounding clouds. This can change not only the shape of the cloud but also its chemical composition. She and her team want to understand how this works and how it might affect the formation of stars and planets.
Some of the interesting finds in this image are also protostars, stars that are just beginning to form.
“You can see in Orion a glowing star nursery there, a lot of young stars. We [also] You see some protostars in this image. Eventually, some of these discs will eventually form planets,” Peters said, but added, “Maybe not in our lifetime.”
This understanding of how gas and radiation play a fundamental role in star formation does not end with this new picture. The difference is still waiting Spectral datawhich will reveal the specific chemical elements present in and around the area.
“If you want to understand the formation of stars in the universe, and the formation of your planet, you need to understand the basics,” Peters said. “And so the Orion Bar is kind of a laboratory: you go in there, you see what’s going on, and then you apply it to other areas.”
She’s also part of answering the big questions, she said.
“Where did we come from? Are we alone?” She said. “I think, in that sense, understanding star formation, planet formation is part of that puzzle.”