Astronomers using the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope have delivered the most detailed images ever taken of the inner region of the Orion Nebula.
The Orion Nebula is a diffuse nebula located approximately 1,350 light-years away in the constellation of Orion.
Also known as NGC 1976, Messier 42, M42, LBN 974, and Sharpless 281, this glowing cloud spans about 24 light-years.
It can be seen with the naked eye as a fuzzy patch surrounding the star Theta Orionis in the Hunter’s Sword, below Orion’s belt.
The Orion Nebula had been known since the beginnings of recorded astronomy as a star, but it is so outstanding that it was first noted as an extended nebula in 1610, only a year after Galileo Galilei’s first use of the telescope.
Detailed descriptions of the nebula started appearing later in the 17th century, and it has been a popular target for anyone with a telescope ever since.
At only 2 million years old, the Orion Nebula is an ideal laboratory for studying young stars and stars that are still forming. It offers a glimpse of what might have happened when the Sun was born 4.6 billion years ago.
The new images of the nebula were obtained as part of the Early Release Science program Photodissociation Regions for All (PDRs4All) on Webb.
“We are blown away by the breathtaking images of the Orion Nebula,” said Professor Els Peeters, an astrophysicist at the University of Western Ontario.
“We started this project in 2017, so we have been waiting more than five years to get these data.”
“Observing the Orion Nebula was a challenge because it is very bright for Webb’s unprecedented sensitive instruments,” added CNRS astronomer Dr. Olivier Berné.
“But Webb is incredible, Webb can observe distant and faint galaxies, as well as Jupiter and Orion, which are some of the brightest sources in the infrared sky.”
“These new observations allow us to better understand how massive stars transform the gas and dust cloud in which they are born,” Professor Peeters said.
“Massive young stars emit large quantities of ultraviolet radiation directly into the native cloud that still surrounds them, and this changes the physical shape of the cloud as well as its chemical makeup.”
“How precisely this works, and how it affects further star and planet formation is not yet well known.”
The new Webb images reveal numerous spectacular structures inside the Orion Nebula, down to scales comparable to the size of the Solar System.
“We clearly see several dense filaments. These filamentary structures may promote a new generation of stars in the deeper regions of the cloud of dust and gas. Stellar systems already in formation show up as well,” Dr. Berné said.
“Inside its cocoon, young stars with a disk of dust and gas in which planets form are observed in the nebula.”
“Small cavities dug by new stars being blown by the intense radiation and stellar winds of newborn stars are also clearly visible.”
Proplyds consist of a central protostar surrounded by a disk of dust and gas in which planets form.
Several protostellar jets, outflows and nascent stars embedded in dust are scattered throughout the images.
“We have never been able to see the intricate fine details of how interstellar matter is structured in these environments, and to figure out how planetary systems can form in the presence of this harsh radiation,” said Dr. Emilie Habart, an astronomer at the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale.
“These images reveal the heritage of the interstellar medium in planetary systems.”
Source link: https://www.sci.news/astronomy/webb-orion-nebula-11188.html