() — The James Webb Space Telescope has captured a stunning new image of the closest star-forming region to Earth, located 390 light-years away.
The release of the image marks the first anniversary since the space telescope began observing the universe.
This detailed close-up from the Webb Space Telescope shows the chaos of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, where crisscrossing jets of young Sun-like stars pummel interstellar gas, causing it to glow.
Some of the stars are shrouded in shadows that point to circumstellar disks, the rotating rings of gas and dust where planets are born.
The cloud complex contains 50 stars of similar mass to our Sun, which means that these future planetary systems may resemble our own solar system in principle.
The darkest parts of the image are those where still-forming stars are shrouded in dust, while jets of molecular hydrogen form striking red splashes.
“Webb’s image of Rho Ophiuchi allows us to witness a very brief period in the stellar life cycle with new clarity. Our own Sun experienced a phase like this, long ago, and now we have the technology to see the beginning of another star’s history,” said Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. and NASA research scientist, in a statement.
The most powerful telescope ever sent into space, Webb, was released on December 25, 2021and NASA shared its first set of twinkle images on July 12, 2022.
The first glimpses of the universe from the space observatory included distant galaxiesthe composition atmosphere of an exoplanet and a stellar nursery, where stars are born.
“In just one year, the James Webb Space Telescope has transformed humanity’s view of the cosmos, peering into dust clouds and seeing light from far corners of the universe for the first time. Each new image is a new discovery, enabling scientists around the world to ask and answer questions they could never dream of before,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
“Webb is an investment in American innovation, but also a scientific feat made possible by NASA’s international partners who share a can-do spirit to push the boundaries of what is known to be possible. Thousands of engineers, scientists, and leaders poured their life’s passion into this mission, and their efforts will continue to advance our understanding of the origins of the universe and our place in it.”
Revealing the secrets of the universe
The Webb Space Telescope captures the universe in infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye. The telescope cuts through the cosmos-obscuring gas and dust to reveal never-before-seen features and other celestial details with advanced precision.
While the initial images provided a taste of Webb’s capabilities, the telescope’s first year of cosmic observations has been impressive, and astronomers have been both encouraged and surprised by the discoveries it has enabled.
“On its first anniversary, the James Webb Space Telescope has already fulfilled its promise to unfold the universe, gifting humanity with an impressive treasure trove of images and science that will last for decades,” said Nicola Fox, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the NASA in a statement.
“An engineering marvel built by the world’s leading scientists and engineers, Webb has given us a more complex understanding of galaxies, stars and the atmospheres of planets outside our solar system than ever before, laying the foundation for NASA leads the world in a new era of scientific discovery and the search for habitable worlds.”
One of Webb’s greatest strengths is capturing the dim light of incredibly distant galaxies. The observatory can essentially look back in time as it studies cosmic objects that formed shortly after the universe began.
Given the vastness of the universe, studying its early days is like looking back in time. the dim light of the oldest galaxies it still travels across the universe to reach Earth, so the farthest reaches of the universe visible to scientists are light from the past.
In its first year alone, the telescope has already identified some of the galaxies most distant ever observedwhich formed a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.
Studying these galaxies, which have long been beyond the range of observation of other telescopes, may help astronomers piece together more details about the early days of the universe, including how the galaxies arose. first galaxies and stars.
The telescope has observed a wide range of galaxies and other celestial objects, creating a catalog of cosmic phenomena that could change the way scientists understand the universe.
Webb has witnessed an unusual star about to explode, identified elements in icy space clouds, captured hidden structures within spiral galaxies, spied weather patterns on a distant planet, and detected water on a rare comet. The telescope has also shown its keen eye for chemistry and has demonstrated its ability to identify organic molecules throughout the universe.
“The breadth of science that Webb is able to explore really becomes clear now, when we have a full year of data from all-sky targets,” said Eric Smith, associate director for research in the Division of Astrophysics at NASA headquarters. NASA and Webb program scientist, in a statement.
“Webb’s first year of science has not only taught us new things about our universe, but has also revealed that the telescope’s capabilities exceed our expectations, which means that future discoveries will be even more amazing.”
In addition to revealing previously hidden aspects of the universe and distant galaxies, astronomers have also used the Webb Space Telescope to observe more familiar features in new ways.
The telescope captured both starry and ghostly images of the Pillars of Creation, as well as peeking into never-before-seen detail in the supernova Cassiopeia A. Both have served as targets for other telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope in the past.
Webb has also taken observations a little closer to home, capturing views of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune in revealing new light. The telescope also glimpsed a plume rising from Saturn’s moon Enceladus and clouds on the ringed planet moon Titan.
While Webb has the ability to peer into the atmospheres of exoplanets, the observatory also discovered its first exoplanet.
And it’s just the beginning. The NASA telescope team estimates that Webb will be able to spend the next two decades revealing the unseen side of the universe and leading the way in both anticipated and unknown discoveries.
“With a year of science behind us, we know exactly how powerful this telescope is, and we’ve delivered a year’s worth of spectacular data and discoveries,” said Jane Rigby, Webb Project Senior Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Greenbelt, Maryland, in a statement. “We have selected an ambitious set of observations for the second year, which is based on everything we have learned so far. Webb’s scientific mission is just beginning, there is much more to come.”