Webb discovered a never-before-seen star birth in the Carina Nebula, which was glorious—he taught me about science

The Carina Nebula (NGC 3324) captured by the Near Infrared Webcam (NIRCam). (Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI).

Half a year ago, the first scientific images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) were revealed. Although they were full of beauty and science, they were only the beginning, and we knew that they were small, and at the same time a huge demonstration of everything to come. We said that only from the first images many investigations were expected to reveal new knowledge, and now a new one has appeared: Scientists who did an in-depth analysis One of Webb’s early iconic images found a star birth like never before.

One of JWST’s first images was of “cosmic cliffs,” with a landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” dotted with bright stars that are actually the edge of a nearby star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina nebula. In this iconic image, researchers detected dozens of energetic jets, outflows from young stars that were previously hidden by clouds of dust.

The Hubble Space Telescope has previously studied NGC 3324, but many details about star formation in this region are still hidden in the wavelengths of visible light. James Webb’s high-resolution infrared is perfectly equipped to decipher this long-awaited detail. By analyzing data from a specific wavelength of infrared light (4.7 microns), astronomers have discovered twenty previously unknown outbursts from extremely young stars revealed by molecular hydrogen. Many of these protostars are on their way to becoming low-mass stars, like our Sun.

Dozens of previously hidden jets and streams of young stars have been revealed in this new image of cosmic descents taken by the Near Infrared Camera of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (NIRCam). (Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI. Image processing: J. DePasquale (STScI)).

“What Webb gives us is a snapshot of a moment in time to see how much star formation is going on in what might be a typical corner of the universe that we haven’t been able to see before,” astronomer Megan Reiter said in a statement.of Rice University in Houston, Texas, who led the study.

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We know very well that molecular hydrogen is an essential element in the formation of new stars, which is why it is used as an indicator to reveal the early stages of their formation. As young stars grow, they take in hydrogen and expel some of it in polar jets and outflows. The planes then act like snowplows, carving out the surrounding environment, which is evident in Webb’s notes.

The James Webb telescope has the unparalleled ability to look back billions of years in time, while its infrared observatory allows it to look in unprecedented detail through dense clouds of gas and dust much closer to us. When we add these capabilities, the observatory offers unparalleled views from which astronomers will benefit to explore systems similar to ours and others never seen before. The new findings mark the beginning of a new era in the investigation of how stars like our Sun form, and how radiation from nearby massive stars can influence the evolution of planets.

“This opens the doors to what will be possible in terms of observing these clusters of infant stars in environments quite typical of the universe that were invisible until the arrival of the James Webb Space Telescope.” Reiter added. “We now know where to look next to explore variables important for the formation of sun-like stars.”

Scientific article It was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society in December 2022.

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Lovell Loxley

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