James-Webb telescope captures Orion’s star nursery


The Orion Nebula as seen by the James-Webb Space Telescope (false colors). SALOMÉ FUENMAYOR//PDRS4ALL/CSA/ESA/NASA This time, its giant mirror, 6.5 meters in diameter, was turned towards the Orion Nebula: the American agencies’ James-Webb Space Telescope , European and Canadian continues to dazzle astronomers and the public. with the images it sends from its observation site located more than 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. On September 12, the PDRs4All program, co-directed by the French Olivier Berné (of the Institute for Research in Astrophysics and Planetology, in Toulouse) and Emilie Habart (of the Institute of Space Astrophysics, in Paris-Saclay) and the Belgian Els Peeters (of the University of Western Ontario, Canada) has published unprecedented details of Orion, the nearest star nursery to us in our galaxy, about 1,350 light-years from Earth. Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers James-Webb Telescope: its summer album In this region, stars are born inside the many filaments that structure the image and move according to the stellar winds. The brown structure that crosses the image and evokes the flight of an eagle with its “head” made of a bright star, is a front of matter made up of gas and dust. This area is at the boundary between a bluish side, where ultraviolet radiation from the star cluster at the center of the nebula ionizes hydrogen and pushes matter outward, and a region of dust, resistant hydrocarbon molecules to radiation (rather in green above the image). “Globes” and white spots Surrounded by red, the star that forms the eagle’s head appears to create its own nebula around it, pushing matter to the periphery. “This glow, probably due to the diffusion of light on the dust, evokes that of certain sunsets,” says Olivier Berné. The nebula as seen by Hubble (left) and James-Webb (right). C.O’DELL ET AL./RICE UNIV./STSCL/NASA; O. BERNÉ/PDRS4ALL ERS TEAM/CSA/ESA/NASA The nebula seen by Spitzer (left) and James-Webb (right). T. MEGEATH/JPL-CALTECH/NASA; O. BERNÉ/PDRS4ALL ERS TEAM/CSA/ESA/NASA The team of astronomers also immediately noticed by zooming in countless “globules”, small white spots in the nebula, in the shape of a jellyfish, Venetian mask, cap… , which are protoplanetary disks, or “proplyds”, that is to say, an accumulation of matter around a young star, home to the appearance of future planets. “The dimensions are only ten astronomical units, the size of our solar system. The James-Webb had never seen one before,” testifies Olivier Berné, a specialist in these regions, similar to those in which our own solar system was born. Also read: The James-Webb telescope captures the image of the cosmic ‘Tarantula’ We are very happy. The details of the image give an incomparable three-dimensional vision”, says Emilie Habart. The differences with the space telescopes Hubble (which observes the visible) or Spitzer (in infrared) are really eloquent. James-Webb “sees” through the dust and locates stars that have so far remained hidden from Hubble. It also sees ten times sharper than Spitzer, which allows it to study in detail small objects such as protoplanetary disks or filaments of matter. Matter Cascades A second “bonus” image was also presented, showing an area a few light years further north than the previous one. The same dynamical phenomena are observed in this type of matter cascade: cold hydrocarbon matter (in green), heated hydrogen gas (in blue) and, in red, probably hot dust. The more or less young stars depending on their color also light up the scene. Northern region of M42, the Great Orion Nebula, observed with the A detector of NIRCam, the infrared camera on the James-Webb Space Telescope. OLIVIER BERNÉ/PDRS4ALL ERS TEAM/CSA/ESA/NASA These images, in false colors, captured by the NIRCam instrument, James-Webb’s infrared camera, were produced by graphic designer Salomé Fuenmayor, who assembled fourteen shots of telescope captured in several infrared. filters, therefore invisible to the naked eye. The colors correspond to the radiation of different compounds, but it is too early to accurately associate a color with specific chemical elements such as hydrogen, molecular hydrogen, hydrocarbons, dust… Therefore, astronomers are waiting to receive and ‘study other data. of the same region, the exact composition, for almost every pixel in the image, of the light emitted at each wavelength (or color). This information is the only one that will allow the precise identification of light sources, their composition, their temperature, their evolution… This will be the key to understanding the mysterious interaction of stellar radiation with the surrounding matter, but also the formation of new generations of stars, stars, or even the carbon cycle (with molecules heating, breaking, cooling, etc.). In the line of sight, the drafting of complete scenarios for the emergence of planetary systems like ours. Also read: First image of exoplanet emitted by James-Webb telescope, ‘a turning point for astronomy’ David Larousserie (Toulouse, by our special correspondent)
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