Webb peers into stunning Tarantula Nebula to spot emerging infant star
The James Webb Space Telescope has turned its infrared eyes to a neighboring nursery of young stars, and pierced through the dust to capture an infant star in its formative stages. The stunning imagery reveals thousands of other previously unsighted young stars, and presents the nearby Tarantula Nebula in dazzling new detail.
Also known as 30 Doradus, the Tarantula Nebula is a star-forming region around 160,000 light years away within the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy. This relative proximity to Earth and the presence of the hottest, most massive stars known to science make the Tarantula Nebula a point of interest among astronomers studying star formation.
As it has done with other galaxies and celestial objects since it kicked into gear in July, Webb has now offered a view not seen before, this time of the Tarantula Nebula. Previous observations of this region relied on other telescopes that detect shorter wavelengths of light, which have been obscured by the nebula’s dust to leave many of its young stars and other contents out of sight.
But with its infrared cameras and an ability to detect longer wavelengths of light, Webb is able to peer through the clouds to reveal new details within the Tarantula Nebula. This includes thousands of young stars that scientists have never laid eyes on before, along with one compelling example of an emerging star that scientists had thought to be a more aged example.
A new image captured by Webb ’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) depicts a star in the process of hatching from its cocoon – a dusty protective cloud from which it is formed. These clouds, seen as light and bright “pillars” that point toward the Tarantula Nebula’s center, are dense regions that are able to resist the strong stellar radiation emanating from massive young stars, seen in blue. These powerful stellar winds have blown up cavities in the Tarantula Nebula, as seen in the center.
Webb’s Mid-infrared Instrument with its longer wavelengths of detectable light, meanwhile, provides yet another perspective on the Tarantula Nebula. The cooler gas and dust are glowing and bright spots represent soon-to-be stars that are still accumulating mass, while the hotter stars are more faint.
Full resolution versions of the new Webb images are available here.