The James Webb offers exceptional images of the Orion Nebula

The James Webb has just brought back sumptuous images of a famous piece of sky, and astronomers are jubilant.

The James Webb Space Telescope strikes again! An international team of astronomers returns today with sensational images of the Orion Nebula. A new contribution that once again shows the performance of this 10 billion dollar engineering gem.

This is the very first time that the JWST is interested in this nebula, and specialists are already rubbing their hands. It is indeed one of the favorite study objects of astronomers, and for good reason: it is a first class stellar nursery which stands out for its proximity to the solar system and its exceptional activity.

A stellar nursery like the JWST loves

These areas are of particular interest to specialists. They are full of clues on certain central themes of astrophysics. Studying these stellar nurseries holds the promise of making great discoveries about the conditions and mechanisms that govern star formation, and by extension the global dynamics of the cosmos.

The problem is that these areas are very difficult to observe. They are regularly masked by the immense clouds of dust and gas which serve as raw material for the formation of the stars. For older generation telescopes like Hubble, it is therefore almost impossible to peek into the most interesting part, namely the heart of the nursery.

A comparison of photos of the Orion Nebula taken by Hubble (left) and JWST (right). © NASA/ESA/CSA/PDRs4All ERS Team/Salomé Fuenmayor

But these obstacles, the infrared eyes of the Webb have nothing to do with them. Since he took office, researchers have therefore hastened to focus his lens on the most remarkable nurseries. We can for example cite Carina Nebula whose Webb unveiled a superb image on the day of its official inauguration. Most recently, he also dived into the heart of the Tarantula Nebula.

This time he ventured to the constellation of Orion, 1350 light years from Earth. The opportunity to rediscover the nebula of the same name in a new light. Astronomers can finally discover what is hidden at the heart of this structure.

© NASA/ESA/CSA/PDRs4All ERS Team/Salomé Fuenmayor

A major astronomical curiosity now laid bare

There are large filaments of rather dense material, a bit like those recently described in the Tarantula Nebula. They are believed to be catalysts that fuel the formation and growth of nearby stars.

It is also an opportunity to rediscover one of the most interesting objects in the entire constellation: the Trapezium cluster. According to the CNRS, it emits “intense ultraviolet radiation, capable of shaping clouds of dust and gas. Understanding the phenomenon begins to influence the environment is a key question for studying the formation of star systems like our own solar system,” explain the astronomers.

From now on, the research team will work hard to extract all possible information from the data collected by the JWST. They thus hope to arrive at new discoveries on the first phases of the formation of stellar and planetary systems.

Leave a Comment