One of the most famous and awe-inspiring images in modern astronomy, revealing colossal spiers of interstellar gas and dust called the Pillars of Creation, has been rendered with greater depth, clarity and color by the James Webb Space Telescope.
The new view of the pillars, first made famous when captured in 1995 by Webb’s predecessor observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, was unveiled by NASA on Wednesday, three months after the unveiling of the first batch of cosmic photos of Webb as he began his full operations.
The haunting images show vast, towering columns of dense clouds of gas and dust where young stars are forming in a region of the Eagle Nebula in the constellation Serpens, some 6,500 light-years away. Earth.
The image has become a global cultural phenomenon, affixed to everyday objects ranging from T-shirts to coffee mugs.
Revisited by Hubble’s visible light optics to create a sharper and wider scene in 2014, the pillars were rendered by Webb in the near-infrared spectrum with even greater translucency, highlighting many more stars while revealing new contours of the gas-and-dust clouds.
The new view “will help researchers revamp their star formation models by identifying a much more precise number of newly formed stars, as well as the amounts of gas and dust in the region,” NASA said in a paper. accompanying the last image.
The bright red orbs appearing just outside the pillars are infant stars, where huge knots of gas and dust have collapsed under their own gravity and slowly warmed up, giving rise to new stellar bodies, according to the Nasa.
The wavy crimson lines that look like lava at the edge of some pillars are ejections of still-forming star material in gas and dust and are estimated to be only a few hundred thousand years old, the agency said. American space.
Nearly two decades of contract manufacturing for NASA by aerospace giant Northrop Grumman Corp., the US$9 billion Webb Infrared Telescope was launched into space on December 25, 2021, in partnership with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
It reached its destination in solar orbit nearly a million miles from Earth a month later and is set to revolutionize astronomy by allowing scientists to look farther and with greater precision into the cosmos than ever before. at the dawn of the known universe.