Dramatic new images from the James Webb Space Telescope on Monday show the Orion Nebula, whose cluster of gas and stellar dust form a vast winged creature with a star shining brightly at its center .
Located 1,350 light-years from Earth, this celestial object appears to provide an environment similar to that in which our solar system was born 4.5 billion years ago.
The international team of researchers who published these unpublished images thus intends to study these data in order to better understand the conditions which reigned during the creation of our system.
The capture of these images is part of one of James Webb's priority observation programs and involved more than a hundred scientists in 18 countries, with the help of the CNRS in France, Western University in Canada and the University of Michigan.
“We are blown away by the spectacular images of the Orion Nebula,” Western University astrophysicist Els Peeters said in a statement. “These new observations allow us to better understand how massive stars transform the clouds of gas and dust in which they were born.”
The nebulae are masked by large amounts of dust that make them impossible to observe in visible light with telescopes like Hubble, James Webb's predecessor.
The latter has tools that capture infrared light from the cosmos and make it possible to see through these layers of dust.
This revealed awe-inspiring structures down to a scale of about 40 AU – an AU roughly corresponding to the distance between Earth and the Sun.
Among them are a number of dense filaments of material that could support the birth of a new generation of stars as well as star systems in formation, consisting of a central star surrounded of a disc of dust and gas inside which planets form.
“We hope to be able to understand the entire birth cycle of a star,” explains astrophysicist Edwin Bergin from the University of Michigan.
Bi A $10 billion engineering masterpiece, the James Webb Telescope conducts its observations 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.
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