NASA's Webb captures fiery hourglasses as new stars form

NASA’s Webb captures fiery hourglasses as new stars form

Visible in this image from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, protostar L1527 is embedded in a cloud of material that fuels its growth. Material ejected from the star has eroded voids above and below it, the boundaries of which glow orange and blue in this infrared view. The upper central region shows bubble-like shapes due to stellar “burps” or sporadic ejections. Webb also detects filaments of molecular hydrogen that have been shocked by previous stellar ejections. Interestingly, the edges of the upper-left and lower-right cavities appear straight, while the upper-right and lower-left boundaries are curved. The lower-right region appears blue because there is less dust between it and Webb than the orange regions above. Image credits: NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI, J. DePasquale (STScI)

New details surrounding dark cloud L1527 and its protostar have been revealed by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. The nebula’s vivid colors, visible only in infrared light, show that the protostar is in the midst of gathering material on its way to becoming a full-fledged star.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has revealed the once-hidden features of the protostar in dark cloud L1527, providing a glimpse into the beginnings of a new star. These blazing clouds in the Taurus star-forming region are visible only in infrared light, making them an ideal target for Webb’s near-infrared (NIRCam) camera.

The protostar itself is hidden in the “throat” of this hourglass shape. An edge-on protoplanetary disc can be seen as a dark line down the center of the neck. Light from the protostar leaks above and below this disk, illuminating voids in the surrounding gas and dust.

The dominant features of the region, the blue and orange clouds in this representative-colored infrared image, outline voids formed as material shoots away from the protostar and collides with surrounding matter. The colors themselves are due to layers of dust between Webb and the clouds. The dust is thinnest in the blue areas. The thicker the layer of dust, the less blue light can escape, resulting in orange pockets.






This video zooms in on protostar L152 to show the object as seen by the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, embedded in a cloud of material that fuels its growth. Material ejected from the star has eroded voids above and below it, the boundaries of which glow orange and blue in this infrared view. The upper central region shows bubble-like shapes due to stellar “burps” or sporadic ejections. Webb also detects filaments of molecular hydrogen that have been shocked by previous stellar ejections. Interestingly, the edges of the upper-left and lower-right cavities appear straight, while the upper-right and lower-left boundaries are curved. The lower-right region appears blue because there is less dust between it and Webb than the orange regions above. Image credits: ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, unWISE/JPL-Caltech/D. Lang (Perimeter Institute), E. Slawik, N. Risinger, N. Bartmann, M. Zamani Music: Tonelabs – The Red North (www.tonelabs.com)

Webb also reveals filaments of molecular hydrogen that were shocked as the protostar material was ejected from it. Shaking and turbulence prevent the formation of new stars that would otherwise form throughout the cloud. As a result, the protostar dominates space and occupies much of the material.

Despite the havoc L1527 is causing, it’s only about 100,000 years old — a relatively young body. Due to its age and far-infrared brightness, as observed by missions such as the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, L1527 is considered a Class 0 protostar, the earliest stage of star formation.

Still shrouded in a dark cloud of dust and gas, protostars like this one still have a long way to go before they become full-fledged stars. L1527 does not yet generate its own energy through nuclear fusion of hydrogen, an essential property of stars. While largely spherical, its shape is also unstable, taking the form of a small, hot, and swollen blob of gas somewhere between 20 and 40% the mass of our Sun.






Visible in this image from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, protostar L1527 is embedded in a cloud of material that fuels its growth. Material ejected from the star has eroded voids above and below it, the boundaries of which glow orange and blue in this infrared view. The upper central region shows bubble-like shapes due to stellar “burps” or sporadic ejections. Webb also discovers filaments of molecular hydrogen that have been shocked by previous stellar ejections. Interestingly, the edges of the upper-left and lower-right cavities appear straight, while the upper-right and lower-left boundaries are curved. The lower-right region appears blue because there is less dust between it and Webb than the orange regions above. Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI, J. DePasquale (STScI), N. Bartmann (ESA/Webb) Music: Stellardrone – Twilight

As the protostar continues to gain mass, its core gradually compresses and approaches stable nuclear fusion. The scene shown in this image shows L1527 doing just that. The surrounding molecular cloud is made up of dense dust and gas, which are being pulled toward the center where the protostar is located.

As the material falls in, it spirals around the center. This creates a dense disk of material known as the accretion disk, which provides the protostar with material. As it gains mass and is further compressed, the temperature of its core increases, eventually reaching the threshold for nuclear fusion to begin.

The disk, visible in the image as a dark band in front of the bright center, is about the size of our solar system. Given the density, it’s not uncommon for much of this material to clump together – the beginnings of planets. Finally, this view of L1527 offers a glimpse of what our Sun and solar system looked like in its infancy.

Quote: NASA’s Webb Captures Fiery Hourglass As New Stars Form (2022, November 16) Retrieved November 16, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-nasa-webb-fiery-hourglass -star.html

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