The one of the Orion nebula is another amazing image that the James Webb telescope adds to its collection of snapshots to remember. This and others have been taken by the telescope’s NIRCam and are, according to astronomers, the most detailed ever seen .
“These new observations allow us to better understand how massive stars transform the cloud of gas and dust in which they are born . Young massive stars emit large amounts of ultraviolet radiation directly into the native cloud that still surrounds them, and this changes the physical shape of the cloud, as well as its chemical composition. It is not yet known precisely how this works and how it affects the subsequent formation of stars and planets,” said astrophysicist Els Peeters of Western University in Canada and co-leader of the team. .
the birth of stars
Stars are born within dense clusters of clouds of dust and gas that collapse under gravity and begin to accumulate material from the surrounding cloud. As a consequence, a disk forms as the star rotates. The large amount of dust and gas that occurs in the process makes it difficult to observe , as it does not allow light to escape and let us see what is happening inside. However, this is not a problem for the James Webb.
The James Webb Telescope views the universe in infrared light , which is capable of passing through dust. It therefore gives us the opportunity to discover regions that would be impossible to glimpse with other tools that operate at shorter wavelengths, such as the visible spectrum. This would be the case of Hubble.
Scientists have been very excited about the possibility offered by James Webb to study star formation and discover details of the process that were previously difficult to observe.
The Orion Nebula as never seen
The stunning image focuses on Orion’s bar , which is the structure that runs diagonally from upper left to lower right. Light from the Trapezium cluster, made up of hot young stars, illuminates the scene from the upper right corner. This is a harsh, ionizing ultraviolet light that is slowly eroding the bar.
This process is one of those that take place during feedback, that is, when wind or radiation from a stellar object pushes material away, reducing or quenching star formation. Complex shapes and structures can also be produced in the molecular cloud, such as the filaments and cavities seen in the new photo.
In the new James Webb image, a star can be seen growing with a disk of material around it. The disk is evaporating due to radiation emitted by Trapezium stars. About 180 such objects, called thrusters, have been found in the Orion Nebula. Clusters of material with baby stars inside, known as globules, are also visible in the snapshot.
The brightest star in the image is θ2 Orionis A. It is part of a multiple star system next to the Trapezium cluster or θ1 Orionis. θ2 Orionis A is itself a triple star system.
θ2 Orionis A can only be seen with the naked eye from Earth in areas without light pollution. The red glow it emits is caused by how its light bounces off surrounding dust.
“We clearly see several dense filaments. These filamentary structures can promote a new generation of stars in the deepest regions of the cloud of dust and gas. Star systems already in formation also appear,” says astronomer Olivier Berné, from the Institute for Space Astrophysics from France. “Inside its cocoon, young stars with a disk of dust and gas in which planets form are observed in the nebula. Also clearly visible are the small cavities excavated by the new stars that are blown away by the intense stellar radiation and winds. of newborn stars.
The study of the Orion Nebula is especially interesting because our solar system is believed to have been born in a similar environment . Now that, thanks to James Webb, details impossible to see with previous tools can be observed, we could find out more about the formation of the Sun and the stellar dust that originated the Earth and the rest of the planets.