The James Webb Telescope brings exceptional pictures of Orion
Orion is located 1,350 light-years from Earth; this celestial object seems to constitute an environment similar to that in which our solar system was born 4.5 billion years ago. The international team of researchers who published these unpublished images intends to study these data to understand better the conditions that prevailed during the creation of our system.
The realization of these images is part of one of the priority programs of observation of James Webb. It has involved more than a hundred scientists in 18 countries, with the assistance of the CNRS in France, the Western University in Canada and the University of Michigan.
“We are blown away by the spectacular images of the Orion Nebula,” said astrophysicist Els Peeters of Western University. “These new observations give us a better understanding of how massive stars transform the clouds of gas and dust in which they were born.”
Nebulae are obscured by large amounts of dust, making them impossible to observe in visible light with telescopes like Hubble, James Webb’s predecessor. The latter has tools that capture the infrared light of the cosmos and allow us to see through these layers of dust. This has revealed grandiose structures up to a scale of about 40 AU – an AU is roughly the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
Among them are several dense filaments of matter that could support the birth of a new generation of stars. Star systems in formation consist of a central star surrounded by a disk of dust and gas inside which planets are forming.
“We hope to understand the entire birth cycle of a star,” says astrophysicist Edwin Bergin of the University of Michigan. The James Webb Telescope is a $10 billion engineering jewel that will make observations 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.