13 Sep 2022, 12:14

Webb telescope captures 'breathtaking' images of Orion Nebula

  WASHINGTON, Sept 13, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - The wall of dense gas and dust

resembles a massive winged creature, its glowing maw lit by a bright star as
it soars through cosmic filaments.

An international research team on Monday revealed the first images of the
Orion Nebula captured with the James Webb Space Telescope, leaving
astronomers "blown away."

The stellar nursery is situated in the constellation Orion, 1,350 light-years
away from Earth, in a similar setting in which our own solar system was
birthed more than 4.5 billion years ago.

Astronomers are interested in the region to better understand what happened
during the first million years of our planetary evolution.

The images were obtained as part of the Early Release Science program and
involved more than 100 scientists in 18 countries, with institutions
including the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), Western
University in Canada, and the University of Michigan.

"We are blown away by the breathtaking images of the Orion Nebula," Western
University astrophysicist Els Peeters said in a statement.

"These new observations allow us to better understand how massive stars
transform the gas and dust cloud in which they are born," she added.

Nebulas are obscured by large amounts of dust that made it impossible to
observe with visible light telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope,
Webb's predecessor.

Webb however operates primarily in the infrared spectrum, penetrating the

This revealed numerous spectacular structures, down to the scale of 40
astronomical units, or the size of our solar system.

These include dense filaments of matter, which could birth new generations of
stars, as well as forming stellar systems that consist of a central proto-
star surrounded by a disc of dust and gas, in which planets form.

"We hope to gain understanding about the entire cycle of star birth," said
Edwin Bergin, University of Michigan chair of astronomy and a member of the
international research team.

"In this image we are looking at this cycle where the first generation of
stars is essentially irradiating the material for the next generation. The
incredible structures we observe will detail how the feedback cycle of
stellar birth occurs in our galaxy and beyond."

Webb is the most powerful space telescope ever built, boasting a primary
mirror measuring 6.5 meters (more than 21 feet) that is made up of 18
hexagonal, gold-coated segments, as well as a five-layer sunshield the size
of a tennis court.

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