It is full of stars, and there are stars.
Twenty-seven years ago, in 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope beamed at the world with a cosmic sight called the Pillar of Creation. The image revealed towering mountains of gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula, one of the richest star factories in the Milky Way galaxy. It was high art from deep space and a visual triumph for the recently repaired and reborn Hubble, which was plagued by a dark lens that prevented it from capturing the world’s brighter scenes.
Now the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble’s successor, has turned its infrared eyes to see through those same pillars and look at the newborns still in the dusty crib. In a new view of the columns released on Wednesday, they are cherry-red streaks and waves of material compressed from clumps of gas and dust — baby protostars — as they collapsed and warmed to stardom.
After 20 years and some $10 billion, the Internet telescope was launched at Christmas last year in orbit around the Sun and millions of miles from Earth. The launch was surprisingly successful, as the complex deployment process in space put the telescope into operational mode.
Webb is designed to see infrared light, electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths longer than visible light – colors no human eye has seen. Viewing the cosmos at these wavelengths allows astronomers to see distant galaxies, whose infrared light changes with their motion from Earth, and to peer through dusty clouds into the lanes of interstellar space.
The telescope proved its worth. In the last few months, astronomers have glimpsed new views of the universe that they thought they knew: galaxies and stars at the edge of time, a few hundred million years after the Big Bang; spooky pictures of planets like Neptune and Jupiter; detailed explorations of exoplanet atmospheres, which are possible hiding places for alien life forms; a view of debris from a small asteroid soon after NASA’s DART spacecraft, carrying out a planetary defense mission, smashed into it; and cosmic landscapes such as the Pillars of Creation or the cosmic rocks of the Carina Nebula, highlighting the immense scale and fragility of the cycles of creation and destruction that mark the times of our galaxy’s existence.
The Eagle Nebula is about 6,000 light years from Earth and is in the constellation Serpentus, from the Latin word for “snake.” The nebula, also known as Messier 16, has starlight that is barely visible to the naked eye on clear evenings in July and August.
Enjoy it while you can: In a few million years, the nebula will disappear, disappearing from the starry sky, like air surrounded by clouds on a summer afternoon.
The new image was made with the Webb Near Infrared Camera, or NIRCam. Astronomers send out a message that the observation of the telescope would allow better the number of stars in the nebula and their types, and thus their models and theories of how stars form, wander from their dusty bodies, die and pass into their substances in the future. . Dust on the embers, ashes on the embers.
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