UNITED STATES: A nebula known as 30 Doradus was recorded in this stunning photograph by the James Webb Space Telescope. Since the nebula has hazy filaments, it is known as the ‘Tarantula Nebula’.
This image from the Webb Space Telescope shows the stellar nursery in great detail, which has long been a favourite subject of scientists researching star formation. Webb caught the precise structure and makeup of the nebula’s gas and dust in addition to the far-off background galaxies.
One of the largest and brightest star-forming regions in the ‘Local Group’, the Tarantula Nebula is located in the large Magellanic Cloud galaxy, some 161,000 light-years away. It also has some of the biggest and most amazing stars we are aware of.
Astronomers focused three of the high-resolution infrared instruments on the scorchingly hot star-forming region to learn more about it.
This region appears to be lined with silk when examined with the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) sensor of the telescope. The intense radiation from a cluster of massive newborn stars, which can be seen flashing in blue in the image, has hollowed out the depression at the nebula’s centre.
All but the densest nebulae’s surrounding regions are eroded by the stars’ strong stellar winds, producing pillars that seem to point in the direction of the cluster. These “pillars” hold developing protostars that will eventually break through and help the nebula take on its current structure.
When observed at the longer infrared wavelengths picked up by the Webb telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument, the same region acquires a completely different appearance (MIRI). The blazing stars fade in the MIRI image as the cooler gas and dust glow.
This image shows embedded protostars that are still accumulating mass as points of light. The nebula’s dust particles either scatter or absorb light with shorter wavelengths. The dust is penetrated, however, by longer mid-infrared wavelengths, which show a very distinct cosmic environment.
When the universe was only a few billion years old, a time period is known as the “cosmic noon,” star production in our universe was at its height. Astronomers are particularly interested in the Tarantula Nebula because it shares a chemical composition with the massive star-forming regions seen during this cosmic noon.