NASA captures ‘snapshot in time’ showing how a star was born

In the Cosmic Abyss, behind the clouds of dust lies a mysterious phenomenon that has intrigued astronomers for years – “a nest for star formation.” And now, thanks to NASA’s James Webb Telescope, you can see how a star is born.

The Abyss, which NASA describes as an area of ​​space located “on the edge of a huge, gaseous void” within the NGC 3324 star cluster, has been studied for years. But until the Webb Telescope observed it, astronomers found some of the more precise details.

However, NASA scientists have found 24 previously unknown exits from baby stars, revealing “a gallery of objects ranging from small jets, forming stars to gushing giants stretching light years.”

And a hard-to-reach gallery.

NASA said the “very early” formation of each star is “a relatively fleeting event – just a few thousand to 10,000 years in the middle of a multi-million-year star formation process.”

But astronomer and study leader Megan Reiter said Webb was able to capture a “snapshot in time”, “to see how much star formation is going on in a more typical corner of the universe that we can’t see.” I saw it before.”

A study of the findings was published this month in the Royal Astronomical Society’s Monthly Notices.

In this new image of the Cosmic Cliffs from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), exits from dozens of previously hidden jets and young stars are revealed.  / Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI.  Image processing: J. DePasquale (STScI)

In this new image of the Cosmic Cliffs from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), exits from dozens of previously hidden jets and young stars are revealed. / Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI. Image processing: J. DePasquale (STScI)

Jets and outflows are essentially stellar secretions of space gas and dust left over during star formation. They can be seen in the presence of molecular hydrogen, which is an essential component in the formation process. Previously, Hubble could only see these ejections of more advanced objects at the telescope’s visual wavelengths, but Webb has a “unique sensitivity” that allows scientists to witness younger stellar phases and provide “unprecedented insight into birthplace-like environments.” allows them to. of our solar system.”

“Jets like these are directional beacons for the most exciting part of the star formation process,” said Nathan Smith, co-author of the study. “We only see them during a short timeframe when the protostar is actively accumulating.”

For crew member Jon Morse, “it’s like finding a buried treasure.”

“In the image first released in July, you see hints of this activity, but these jets can only be seen when you start that deep dive — examining data from each of the different filters and analyzing each area alone,” he said.

Many of the stars observed in this study are expected to be low-mass stars like the sun of our galaxy. And according to Reiter, astronomers will now have a better idea of ​​where in space they can observe how “sunlike stars” bear fruit.

“It opens the door to what’s possible in terms of looking at populations of these newborn stars in the highly typical environments of the universe not visible until the James Webb Space Telescope,” Reiter said.

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