The James Webb Space Telescope on Wednesday unveiled its latest image of celestial majesty, an ethereal hourglass of orange and blue dust being launched from a newly forming star at its center.
The colorful clouds are only visible in infrared light, so they had never been seen before they were captured by Webb’s near-infrared (NIRCam) camera, NASA and the European Space Agency said in a statement.
The very young star, known as protostar L1527, is hidden in the darkness by the rim of a spinning disk of gas at the hourglass’s neck.
However, light streams out of the disk at the top and bottom, illuminating the hourglass-shaped clouds.
The clouds are formed by material being ejected from the star and colliding with surrounding matter, the statement said. The dust is thinnest in the blue areas and thickest in the orange areas, he added.
The only 100,000 year old protostar in the earliest stage of star formation is not yet able to generate its own energy.
The surrounding black disk, about the size of our solar system, will feed the protostar material until it eventually “reaches the threshold for nuclear fusion to begin,” the statement said.
“Ultimately, this view of L1527 offers a glimpse of what our Sun and solar system looked like in its infancy,” she added.
The protostar resides in the Taurus molecular cloud, a stellar nursery home to hundreds of nearly-formed stars some 430 light-years from Earth.
In operation since July, Webb is the most powerful space telescope ever built and has already unleashed a series of unprecedented data and stunning images. Scientists hope it will usher in a new era of discovery.
One of the main goals of the $10 billion telescope is to study the life cycle of stars. Another research focus are exoplanets, planets outside of Earth’s solar system.
© 2022 AFP
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