NASA's Webb captures celestial fireworks around forming star

This article discusses an image of a young star-forming region, taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The image, captured using the MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument), showcases an hourglass-shaped structure, known as L1527, which is a very young object in the process of becoming a star.

The central part of the hourglass, or protostar, is approximately 100,000 years old and is still surrounded by its parent molecular cloud, a large region of gas and dust. Previous observations with JWST’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) revealed the molecular cloud and protostar in opaque, vibrant colors.

Both NIRCam and MIRI images show the effects of outflows, which are emitted in opposite directions along the protostar’s rotation axis as the object consumes gas and dust from the surrounding cloud. These outflows create the bright hourglass structure and filamentary structures throughout the molecular cloud as they energize the surrounding matter and cause regions above and below the hourglass to glow.

In the MIRI image, areas colored blue represent mostly carbonaceous molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, while the protostar and surrounding dense dust and gases are depicted in red. A white region directly above and below the protostar, consisting of hydrocarbons, ionized neon, and thick dust, is also revealed in the MIRI image, indicating the protostar propels this matter quite far away as it consumes material from its disk.

As the protostar continues to age and release energetic jets, it will consume, destroy, and push away much of the molecular cloud, causing many of the structures observed to fade. Eventually, once the protostar finishes gathering mass, the impressive display will end, and the star itself will become more apparent even to visible-light telescopes.

The combination of analyses from both the near-infrared and mid-infrared views reveals the overall behavior of this system and helps scientists understand how the central protostar affects the surrounding region. This is particularly important because other stars in the star-forming region where L1527 resides are forming similarly, potentially leading to the disruption of molecular clouds and either preventing new stars from forming or catalyzing their development.

The article was provided by the Space Telescope Science Institute and is subject to copyright. For further information, readers can refer to the original source, which was retrieved on July 2, 2024.

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