Image from NASA’s Webb telescope reveals early stellar formation in ‘rare’ find

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The James Webb Space Telescope team announced Thursday that scientists had discovered dozens of energetic jets and outflows from young stars previously hidden by clouds of dust in one of the $10 billion observatory’s iconic first images.

In a press release, NASA said the “rare” find — which includes an article published this month in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society — marks the beginning of a new era of research into star formation, as well as how radiation from nearby massive stars can influence the development of planets.

The cosmic cliffs of the Carina Nebula, within star cluster NGC 3324, are seen in a new wavelength with Webb, and the telescope’s capabilities allow researchers to track the motion of other features previously captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

By analyzing data from a specific wavelength of infrared light, astronomers discovered two dozen previously unknown outflows from extremely young stars revealed by molecular hydrogen.

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Dozens of previously hidden jets and outflows from young stars are revealed in this new image of the cosmic cliffs from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam). This image separates different wavelengths of light from the first image revealed on July 12, 2022, and shows molecular hydrogen, a vital ingredient for star formation. Insets on the right highlight three regions of the Cosmic Cliffs with particularly active molecular hydrogen outflows. In this image, red, green, and blue were mapped to Webb’s NIRCam data at 4.7, 4.44, and 1.87 microns (F470N, F444W, and F187N filters, respectively).
(Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI. Image processing: J. DePasquale (STScI).)

Molecular hydrogen is an essential ingredient in star formation and a good way to track the early stages of that process.

“As young stars collect material from the gas and dust that surround them, most also eject a fraction of that material back out of their polar regions in jets and outflows. These jets then act as snowplows and bulldozers in the surrounding environment. Visible in the Webb’s observations is the molecular hydrogen being entrained and excited by these jets,” NASA explained.

Objects were discovered: including “little fountains” and “rippling behemoths stretching light-years from the forming stars.”

Image of the Cosmic Cliffs, an area at the edge of a giant, gaseous cavity in NGC 3324, captured by Webb's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), with compass arrows, scale bar, and color key for reference.  The north and east compass arrows indicate the orientation of the image in the sky.  Note that the relationship between north and east in the sky (viewed from below) is reversed relative to directional arrows on a map of the ground (viewed from above).  The scale bar is labeled in light years, which is the distance light travels in one Earth year.  Light takes 2 years to travel a distance equal to the length of the rod.  One light year is equal to about 5.88 trillion miles or 9.46 trillion kilometers.  This image shows invisible near-infrared wavelengths of light translated into colors of visible light.  The color code indicates which NIRCam filters were used to collect the light.  The color of each filter name is the visible light color used to represent the infrared light passing through that filter.  Webb's NIRCam was built by a team from the University of Arizona and Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center.

Image of the Cosmic Cliffs, an area at the edge of a giant, gaseous cavity in NGC 3324, captured by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), with compass arrows, scale bar, and color key for reference. The north and east compass arrows indicate the orientation of the image in the sky. Note that the relationship between north and east in the sky (viewed from below) is reversed relative to directional arrows on a map of the ground (viewed from above). The scale bar is labeled in light years, which is the distance light travels in one Earth year. Light takes 2 years to travel a distance equal to the length of the rod. One light year is equal to about 5.88 trillion miles or 9.46 trillion kilometers. This image shows invisible near-infrared wavelengths of light translated into colors of visible light. The color code indicates which NIRCam filters were used to collect the light. The color of each filter name is the visible light color used to represent the infrared light passing through that filter. Webb’s NIRCam was built by a team from the University of Arizona and Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center.
(PICTURE: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

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Previous observations of jets and outflows focused on nearby regions and more evolved objects already detectable in Hubble’s wavelengths.

“Webb’s unparalleled sensitivity allows observations of more distant regions, while its infrared optimization penetrates into the dust-sampling younger stages. Together, this provides astronomers with an unprecedented view of environments similar to the birthplace of our solar system,” the agency noted.

What looks like craggy mountains on a moonlit night is actually the edge of a nearby young star-forming region NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula.  This image, captured in infrared light by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, reveals previously obscured regions of star birth.

What looks like craggy mountains on a moonlit night is actually the edge of a nearby young star-forming region NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. This image, captured in infrared light by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, reveals previously obscured regions of star birth.
(NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

Many of these protostars will become low-mass stars like the Sun.

This period of star formation, NASA added, is particularly difficult to record because it is relatively fleeting.

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Webb’s observations also help astronomers shed light on how active the star-forming regions are.

By comparing the position of previously known outflows in this region with Hubble data from 16 years ago, the scientists were able to track the speed and direction in which the jets are moving.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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