Astronomers using the James Webb Space Telescope have captured a huge “star factory” located in a nearby galaxy in all colors and details.
The orange, yellow-blue image shows the 1,630-light-year-wide interstellar atomic hydrogen nebula N79 in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a companion galaxy to the Milky Way. This region actively forms stars and remains practically unexplored by astronomers, writes Space.
N79 is considered the “younger brother” of the Tarantula Nebula, which is located at a distance of approximately 161 thousand light years from Earth.
Despite the similarities, scientists believe that over the past 500,000 years, N79 has formed stars twice as fast as the Tarantula Nebula.
Studying star-forming regions like N79 allows scientists to learn about the composition of the clouds of gas and dust that gave birth to stars in the early universe, when star formation was most intense.
The new image focuses on three giant complexes of cold atomic gas, so-called molecular clouds, that are part of what astronomers call N79 South, or S1.
One of the most striking aspects of the image is the “starburst” that surrounds the “bright heart” of the N79. The James Webb Telescope took a new image of N79 using the Mid-Infrared Instrument. Infrared imaging allows astronomers to peer deeply into the region of star formation.
The telescope can also “see” young stellar bodies that are still cocooned in their mother’s womb of gas and dust. These so-called “protostars” have not yet collected enough material from this envelope to become massive enough to convert hydrogen into helium in their cores.
In the image, the young star N97, which has just begun this process, can be seen as the brightest point in the middle of orange clouds of gas and dust, the scientists say.
Astronomers hope that with this mission, they will be able to study for the first time the planet-forming disks of material surrounding young stars similar to the Sun, and thus understand how our solar system formed about 4.6 billion years ago.
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