A 153-megapixel image of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, the closest star-forming region to our solar system, has been released to commemorate the telescope's first year.
The world saw the potential James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) held when it released the first deep-field image of distant galaxies and formations, reports European Space Agency (ESA). These shots stunned the astronomy community. Webb has kept its promise to show us more of the universe than ever before and has revealed much more.
A 153-megapixel image of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, the closest star-forming region to our solar system, has been released to commemorate its first year. According to the ESA, the new image depicts an area containing approximately 50 young stars, all of which are smaller or similar in mass to our Sun.
"The darkest areas are the densest, where thick dust cocoons still-forming protostars," as reported by the outlet. Molecular hydrogen is represented by the red streams that appear horizontally across the upper third of the image and vertically along the right side. "These occur when a star first bursts through its natal envelope of cosmic dust, shooting out a pair of opposing jets into space like a newborn first stretching her arms out into the world," NASA explains.
A star known as S1 takes center stage in the lower part of the image, carving out what NASA describes as a "glowing cave of dust" in this cosmic nursery located 390 light-years from Earth. "It is the only star in the image that is significantly more massive than the Sun," they add. The image also includes stars with shadows that indicate the presence of protoplanetary disks. That is, they are future planetary systems in the making. As a result, astronomers will gain some insight into the early days of our solar system.
The stars — pearls round the tiara of night — lamps guiding winged Fancy's flight to Heaven. ~Thomas Clark Henley— Tali (@talius) July 18, 2023
(Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex (closest star-forming region to Earth). by James Webb Space Telescope) pic.twitter.com/AfvJdFEPLY
Klaus Pontoppidan, former JWST project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, since before Webb's launch and through its first year of operations, says, "Webb's image of Rho Ophiuchi allows us to witness a very brief period in the stellar lifecycle with new clarity. Our own Sun experienced a phase like this long ago, and now we have the technology to see the beginning of another's star's story." The breathtaking image demonstrates Webb's reach and its pictures will continue to aid scientists in unraveling the mysteries of our universe.
"In just one year, the James Webb Space Telescope has transformed humanity's view of the cosmos, peering into dust clouds and seeing the light from faraway corners of the universe for the very first time," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "Every new image is a new discovery, empowering scientists around the globe to ask and answer questions they once could never dream of."
While Webb's infrared and near-infrared instruments have produced stunning images, Webb's spectral instruments excite scientists the most. Webb has discovered ancient galaxies that should not be possible according to current cosmological theory, as well as confirmed the existence of numerous exoplanets, thanks to spectral analysis. Webb is the most powerful and largest telescope ever launched into space. It is a collaboration between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).