Side-by-side photos of the Orion Nebula show just how powerful Webb’s infrared cameras are.  They spot clouds that form stars and cocoons of gas that Hubble can’t see.

Side-by-side photos of the Orion Nebula show just how powerful Webb’s infrared cameras are. They spot clouds that form stars and cocoons of gas that Hubble can’t see.

The inner region of the Orion Nebula as seen by the NIRCam instrument of the James Webb space telescope.

The inner region of the Orion Nebula as seen by the NIRCam instrument of the James Webb space telescope.NASA, ESA, CSA, Data Reduction and Analysis: PDRs4All ERS Team; graphic elaboration S. Fuenmayor

  • Astronomers released a new image of the Orion Nebula from the James Webb Space Telescope on Monday.

  • Webb’s infrared cameras captured star-forming clouds and a cocoon of gas 1,350 light-years away.

  • Astronomers hope the new observations will help them understand how stars are born.

New images from the James Webb Space Telescope, released Monday, captured the sharpest and most detailed images ever taken of the Orion Nebula.

“We are amazed by the breathtaking images of the Orion Nebula. We started this project in 2017, so we waited more than five years to get this data,” said Els Peeters, a Western University astrophysicist who helped lead the observations in a Press release.

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

The new images were released early and will now be studied by an international collaboration of over 100 scientists in 18 countries, under a program known as PDRs4All.

The Orion Nebula is a huge star-forming region 1,350 light years from Earth, making it the closest star nursery to us. Dense clouds of cosmic dust in the nebula obscure star-forming structures from instruments that rely on visible light, such as the Hubble Space Telescope. By gathering infrared light, Webb is able to peer through those layers of dust, giving astronomers unprecedented insights into the various components of the nebula.

Below, take a look at the structures revealed by Webb that were previously shrouded in dust.

Hubble image of the Orion Nebula, left.  JWST image of the Orion Nebula, right.

The Hubble image on the left and the Webb image on the right of the Orion Nebula.NASA, ESA, Massimo Robberto (STScI, ESA), Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team NASA, ESA, CSA, Data reduction and analysis: PDRs4All ERS Team; graphic elaboration S. Fuenmayor

Astronomers believe that nebulae are clouds dominated by vast, tangled, thread-like structures called filaments that feed material such as gas to form and feed stars. Webb’s images reveal these gaseous strands in great detail.

“We clearly see several dense filaments. These filamentous structures can promote a new generation of stars in the deeper regions of the dust and gas cloud,” Olivier Berné, a researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, who was part of the observations, reads in a statement.

However, the exact role of filaments in star formation remains unclear. The researchers hope the new observations will help them unravel the details of how they favor the birth and growth of infant stars.

On the left, the Hubble image of a portion of the Orion Nebula sky is shrouded in dust.  On the right, Webb's image cuts through the dust and reveals a young star with a disk inside its gas cocoon.

On the left, the Hubble image of a portion of the Orion Nebula sky is shrouded in dust. On the right, Webb’s image cuts through the dust, revealing a young star with a disk inside its gas cocoon.NASA, ESA, Massimo Robberto (STScI, ESA), Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team NASA, ESA, CSA, Data reduction and analysis: PDRs4All ERS Team; graphic elaboration S. Fuenmayor

The newly formed young stars nestle within dense cocoons of cold gas and dust that are difficult to see in visible light. Webb, however, is so sensitive to infrared light that it would be able to detect the heat from a hornet on Earth to the moon.

In the new images, Webb was able to capture a star forming inside a gas cocoon, which is not visible in the Hubble Nebula images.

“We hope to gain an understanding of the entire star birth cycle,” Edwin Bergin, a University of Michigan professor who was part of the research team, said in a news release.

“In this image we are looking at this cycle where the first generation of stars is essentially irradiating material for the next generation. The amazing structures we observe will detail how the feedback cycle of stellar birth occurs in our galaxy and beyond,” he said. said Bergin.

On the left, a Hubble image of the Orion Nebula shows the trapezoid cluster just beyond.  On the right, a Webb image of the Orion Nebula shows the trapezoid cluster just beyond.

The Hubble image on the left and the Webb image on the right show the trapezoid cluster just beyond the Orion Nebula.NASA, ESA, CSA, PDRs4All ERS Team; Salomé Fuenmayor image processing

The Orion Nebula is home to a huge group of stars called the Trapezium Cluster. This group of young stars emit intense ultraviolet radiation, shaping the surrounding cloud of dust and gas.

While Hubble is able to capture the effects of radiation in visible and ultraviolet light, Webb’s infrared image shows a sharper view of how the intense starlight and radiation from the cluster destroys the nearby region, leaving behind. itself a hollow on the right. On the left, clouds remain far enough away to escape the more powerful radiation.

“We have never been able to see the intricate details of how interstellar matter is structured in these environments and to understand how planetary systems can form in the presence of this strong radiation”, Emilie Habart, associate professor at the Institut d ‘Astrophysique Spatial in France, he said in a press release.

The Orion Nebula is similar to the environment in which our solar system was born, Habart added, so studying it could be the key to understanding our solar system.

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