Newborn stars still shrouded in cocoons of dust and gas are revealed in a new image of the famed Orion Nebula captured by the James Webb Space Telescope.
The photo, taken on Sunday (September 11) with the James Webb Space TelescopeNIRCam’s instrument reveals unprecedented details of the Orion Nebula, a well-known star-forming region visible even to the naked eye. Fine structures in the dense dust and gas clouds that make up the nebula appear much more clearly in the image than in an earlier image captured by Webb’s predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.
The nebula, which can be found in the night sky in the constellation Orion just south of the Archer Belt, a wall of dense gas and dust known as the Orion Bar can be seen. In this bar, energetic photons of stars in the Trapezium cluster (at the top right of the image) mix with a molecular cloud, causing complex ionizing reactions. In the center of the bar, the star Theta2 Orionis A (or θ2 Ori) shines brightly with the characteristic diffraction peaks that are a side effect of the mirror design of the James Webb Space Telescope.
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The image also shows newborn stars at various stages of development. In the upper left corner of Theta2 Orionis A, in the bar, a young star is forming in a globule, a veil of dust and gas that has collapsed under gravity to form the new star. To the right, below the Trapezoid Cluster, is a star wrapped in a cocoon of planet-forming material eroded by the strong ultraviolet radiation from the Trapezoidal stars.
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The star in this image, called HST-10, is one of about 180 young stars with “photo-evaporating disks” discovered in the Orion Nebula, scientists said in a pronunciation.
The image, a composite created by stacking multiple photos taken with different filters, also shows twisting filaments of hydrocarbon-rich dust and gas.
A comparison image captured with the Spitzer Space TelescopeNASA’s previous infrared observatory highlights the technological advances achieved by the James Webb Space Telescope and the excellent level of detail of the new telescope.