The James Webb Space Telescope revealed, on Tuesday, wonderful images of the Tarantula Nebula, a region of the universe in which stars are born at a frantic pace, and its images will deepen scientific knowledge of star formation.
The Tarantula Nebula, nicknamed the shape of clouds of gas and dust, is “only 161,000 light-years away,” NASA wrote in a statement. It is the largest and brightest star-forming region of the entire group of galaxies close to our galaxy, and home to the most famous and most massive stars known.
Although this nebula has been a favorite target for scientists who study star formation, these images are revealing new details, including thousands of young stars that were hitherto invisible to the eyes of previous telescopes.
Several scientific instruments aboard James Webb were used to take pictures of the nebula at different wavelengths.
In the center of the image captured by the NIRCam instrument, operating in the near infrared, is a group of young, very bright blue stars.
Another instrument, NIRSpec, allowed him to distinguish a star that had just emerged from its dust plume, while maintaining a cloud around it – a stage in its formation that would not have been observed without the incredible abilities of James Webb. Researchers previously believed that this star was in fact much older, and in a more advanced stage.
NASA explained that “star-forming regions within our Milky Way do not produce stars with the same rate of collapse as the Tarantula Nebula, and they have different chemical compositions.”
Therefore, its special chemical composition is of great interest to researchers, because it is similar to the regions where stars formed when the universe was only a few billion years old, when star formation was the most important.
The James Webb Telescope was launched into space last Christmas and has been operating at full capacity for only a few months, making its observations 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.
According to the US Space Agency, this piece of engineering is “just beginning to rewrite the history of stellar creation.”
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