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The James Webb Space Telescope has captured a stunning image of a nearby stellar nursery

The James Webb Space Telescope has captured a stunning image of a nearby stellar nursery

Marking the one-year anniversary of scientific observations with the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope, NASA released a stunning new image Wednesday showing the star-forming region closest to Earth, a colorful, chaotic tapestry of swirling gas studded with sun-like stars.

The stellar nursery in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex includes about 50 young stars, all the same size as Earth’s Sun or smaller.

NASA marked the first year of scientific observations with the James Webb Space Telescope with a new image showing a stellar nursery where about 50 sun-like stars illuminate the interstellar medium. Click here for a zoomable image.

NASA, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, STScI, Klaus Pontopidan (STScI)

“The darkest regions are the most dense, where the dense cocoons of dust are still forming protostars,” NASA said In the description of the image, it was taken by a near infrared webcam, or NIRCam.

“Massive bipolar jets of molecular hydrogen, represented in red, dominate the image, shown horizontally across the upper third and vertically to the right. These occur when a star first explodes through its envelope born of cosmic dust, shooting a pair of opposing jets into space.”

Webb’s project scientist Klaus Pontopidan said the image “allows us to see a very brief period in the stellar life cycle with new clarity. Our Sun went through a phase like this, a long time ago, and now we have the technology to see the beginning of another star’s story.”

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, “In just one year, the James Webb Space Telescope has transformed humanity’s view of the universe, looking at clouds of dust and seeing light from the far corners of the universe for the first time. Every new image is a new discovery.”

Magnified view showing details in the swirling clouds of gas illuminated by glowing young stars.

NASA, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, STScI, Klaus Pontopidan (STScI)

It was the James Webb Space Telescope Launched On top of an Ariane 5 rocket on Christmas Day, 2021, from the European Space Agency’s Kourou launch site, French Guiana.

The telescope took a month to reach its planned parking spot a million miles from Earth on the far side of the moon’s orbit — Lagrange Point 2 — where it now orbits the sun in gravitational line with Earth, providing the cool, dark environment needed for mission success.

The most complex civilian science probe ever built, Webb folded to fit inside the nose cone of Ariane 5. On the way to Lagrange Point 2, scientists and engineers held their collective breath when the telescope released an intricate tennis-court-sized canopy to cool the observatory to within 50 degrees of absolute zero.

Six hexagonal side segments of the 21.3-foot-wide primary Webb mirror were then sawn apart and the optical system precisely aligned to produce extremely sharp images.

The telescope and its four instruments have been optimized to capture light from the first stars and galaxies that began to brighten in the wake of the birth of the universe, light that has been stretched into the infrared region of the spectrum by the expansion of space itself over the past 13.8 billion years.

This light cannot be seen by current ground-based telescopes or even the iconic Hubble, which was designed primarily to study visible and near-infrared wavelengths. However, Hubble has discovered galaxies dating back half a billion years or so before the Big Bang, earlier than astronomers expected.

Webb is designed to exceed this milestone. If everything works exactly as planned.

The telescope’s enormous complexity created widespread tension among the astronomical community. But six and a half months after launch, the Webb is fully calibrated and running as designed. NASA was able to release Five raw photos on July 12, 2022This clearly demonstrated the enormous power of the most expensive scientific probe ever built.

In its first year of operation, Webb probed deeper into space and further back than ever before, discovering at least one galaxy that was shining just 390 million years after the Big Bang. It’s a record that likely won’t last long, with many other candidates awaiting confirmation.

Webb also discovered the oldest supermassive black hole powering a quasar, 570 million years after the birth of the universe. The discoveries put researchers back to the drawing board to understand how galaxies and supermassive black holes could form “soon” after the universe exploded into existence.

Along with going back in time and space, Webb also pointed his infrared eye at planets in Earth’s solar system, capturing stunning infrared views of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune amid spectroscopic studies that help researchers identify elements and compounds in the planet’s atmosphere. . Planets orbiting other stars.

“On its one-year anniversary, the James Webb Space Telescope has truly fulfilled its promise to reveal the universe and give humanity an amazing treasure trove of images and science that will last for decades,” NASA science director Nicola Fox said in a statement.

“Webb has given us a more complex understanding of the galaxies, stars, and atmospheres of planets outside our solar system than ever before, laying the foundation for NASA to lead the world in a new era of scientific discovery and the search for habitable worlds.”

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