Impressive images of the Tarantula Nebula, revealed by the James Webb Space Telescope

Credit image: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI
Credit image: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 07 September 2022, at 08:46 am Los Angeles time

NASA has published a series of new images captured by the James Webb telescope, in which thousands of stars that have never been seen before appear.

The James Webb Space Telescope on Tuesday revealed impressive images of the Tarantula Nebula, a region of the cosmos where stars are born at a breakneck pace.

So named for the shape of its clouds of gas and dust, the Tarantula Nebula is located "just" 161,000 light-years away, NASA said in a statement.  It is the largest and most luminous star-forming region in the entire group of galaxies near us and hosts the hottest and most massive stars known. 

Although this nebula has therefore long been a target for scientists studying the process of star formation, these images reveal new details, including thousands of young stars hitherto invisible to previous telescopes.

Several science instruments aboard the James Webb were used to capture images of the nebula at different wavelengths. At the center of the image taken by the NIRCam instrument, which operates in the near-infrared, is a group of very bright young blue stars. Another instrument, NIRSpec, allowed it to distinguish a star just emerging from its dust zone while maintaining a cloud around it - a stage of its formation that could not have been observed without the incredible skills of James Webb. 

Researchers until now believed that this star was actually older and in a more advanced stage.

"The star-forming regions of the Milky Way do not produce stars at the same frenetic rate as the Tarantula Nebula and have different chemical compositions," NASA explained. 

Its chemical composition is of great interest to researchers because it is similar to the regions where stars formed when the cosmos was only a few billion years old, when star formation was at its peak. 

Launched into space last Christmas and fully operational for just a few months, the James Webb telescope makes its observations 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. According to the US space agency, this piece of engineering is "just beginning to rewrite the history of star creation".

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