NASA has shared a new image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. The image shows young, never-before-seen stars in a cloud of gas known as the Tarantula Nebula.
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The gas cloud or nebula is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy, which is located 161,000 light-years away (One light year is approximately equal to 9,460,000,000,000 kilometers, ed.) from our Earth and orbits the Milky Way. Also known as “30 Dorados,” the nebula is home to thousands of stars, and is the hottest and largest known to astronomers, according to NASA. The stars heat the gas and dust in the nebula, making it visible in the sky. The nebula got its name from its resemblance to the “tarantula web”.
The image from the James Webb Telescope shows an area of 340 light-years across. The Tarantula Nebula has been captured before, but the NIRCam telescope’s camera – or near-infrared camera – allows you to see the nebula and see more stars. This allows the camera to block out the bright light of a bright object, making it possible to photograph a darker celestial object up close.
The Tarantula Nebula is of interest to researchers because it is producing new stars at a “rapid” rate. The image also gives scientists more knowledge about how stars form.
What exactly does the picture show?
The twinkling blue stars in the center of the image have the ability to explode the gas around them and are therefore responsible for the cavity in the nebula. The dusty fibers that form the “tarantula nebula web” can be seen around the central cavity.
Only the compact regions around the nebula can withstand the power of stars, forming regions where more young stars, or “protostars”, are produced. When those stars are “mature” they emerge from their cocoons and in turn form nebulae, according to NASA.
The bright star in the center is not special in itself, but very bright, so the so-called “diffraction peaks” can be seen. These peaks are a result of the mirrors of the James Webb Telescope and the way they direct light to scientific instruments.
Rewatch: Explained. What does James Webb look like and what do they do with it?
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