Astronomers have used the James Webb Space Telescope to peer through the filaments of dust and gas in the Tarantula Nebula, the brightest and biggest stellar nursery around

19463331伟德体育 6 September 2022

In this mosaic image stretching 340 light-years across, Webb?s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) displays the Tarantula Nebula star-forming region in a new light, including tens of thousands of never-before-seen young stars that were previously shrouded in cosmic dust. The most active region appears to sparkle with massive young stars, appearing pale blue. Scattered among them are still-embedded stars, appearing red, yet to emerge from the dusty cocoon of the nebula. NIRCam is able to detect these dust-enshrouded stars thanks to its unprecedented resolution at near-infrared wavelengths.

The Tarantula Nebula as seen by JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera



These pictures show the Tarantula Nebula, located about 161,000 light-years away in大麦芽云– a galaxy that orbits the Milky Way. The nebula is the biggest and brightest one in all the nearby galaxies, and hosts some of the hottest and most massive stars astronomers have ever seen.

The massive young stars that form a sparkling blue cluster near the centre of the above image have cleared out the gas around them with their powerful radiation and intense stellar winds, revealing pillars of relatively dense gas inside which more young stars are forming. The above image was taken with JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), showing the dusty filaments that make up the web ofthe Tarantula Nebula.


But viewed in longer wavelengths by JWST’s Mid-infrared Instrument (MIRI) in the picture below, the web takes on a different countenance. These wavelengths allow us to peer deeper into the cloud than ever before, and tiny points of light indicate protostars still in the process of formation. Hydrocarbons, shown in blue and purple, skim the edges of dust clouds like ghostly veils, while the densest areas of dust obstruct JWST’s view completely, as in the lower left corner.

在wavele时间越长ngths of light captured by its Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), Webb focuses on the area surrounding the central star cluster and unveils a very different view of the Tarantula Nebula. In this light, the young hot stars of the cluster fade in brilliance, and glowing gas and dust come forward. Abundant hydrocarbons light up the surfaces of the dust clouds, shown in blue and purple. Much of the nebula takes on a more ghostly, diffuse appearance because mid-infrared light is able to show more of what is happening deeper inside the clouds. Still-embedded protostars pop into view within their dusty cocoons, including a bright group at the very top edge of the image, left of center. Other areas appear dark, like in the lower-right corner of the image. This indicates the densest areas of dust in the nebula, that even mid-infrared wavelengths cannot penetrate. These could be the sites of future, or current, star formation.

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production

The Tarantula Nebula is of particular interest to astronomers because of its frenzied rate of star formation – nowhere in our own galaxy are stars formed in such huge quantities. This makes it relatively similar to dusty galaxies from billions of years ago, when star formation in the universe was at its most intense in the universe’s所谓的宇宙中午. JWST will be able to observe those galaxies, so comparing those observations with the more detailed ones of this nebula may help us understand the universe’s most active time.

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