Webb captures cosmic tarantula giving birth to thousands of new stars

The James Webb Telescope has captured a stunning nursery of never-before-seen young stars as it looks at the Tarantula Nebula in what is being called a cosmic web. The new image released by the Webb telescope goes beyond what the Hubble telescope saw in the region as it clears the dusty filaments that covered previous observations.

Apart from seeing the young stars, the telescope also picked up distant background galaxies, as well as the detailed structure and composition of the nebula’s gas and dust.

“Nicknamed the Tarantula Nebula for the appearance of its dusty filaments in previous telescope images, the nebula has long been a favorite for astronomers studying star formation,” Nasa said in a statement as it released the latest pictures.

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The Tarantula Nebula is the largest and brightest star-forming region in the Local Group, the galaxies nearest our Milky Way. It is located just 1,61,000 light-years away from Earth and is home to the hottest, most massive stars known to science.

At the longer wavelengths of light captured by its Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), Webb focuses on the area surrounding the central star cluster and unveils a very different view of the Tarantula Nebula. (Photo: Nasa)

Nasa said that the region interests astronomers because has a similar type of chemical composition as the gigantic star-forming regions observed at the universe’s “cosmic noon,” when the cosmos was only a few billion years old and star formation was at its peak.

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Webb used three of its high-resolution infrared instruments to look at the nebula. When viewed with the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), the region resembles a burrowing tarantula’s home, lined with its silk. The center is hollowed out by blistering radiation from a cluster of massive young stars, which sparkle pale blue in the image.

Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) picked up a very young star emerging from the dusty cloud, which revealed that the star was only just beginning to emerge from its pillar and still maintained an insulating cloud of dust around itself. Meanwhile, when seen with the Mid-infrared Instrument (MIRI), the hot stars fade, and the cooler gas and dust glow.

“Despite humanity’s thousands of years of stargazing, the star-formation process still holds many mysteries many of them due to our previous inability to get crisp images of what was happening behind the thick clouds of stellar nurseries. Webb has already begun revealing a universe never seen before, and is only getting started on rewriting the stellar creation story,” Nasa said in a statement.

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