James Webb Space Telescope
with James Webb Space Telescope
The ‘Pillars of Creation’ Glow in Remarkable Detail in a Groundbreaking Image from NASA’s James Webb Telescope
In a small region within the vast Eagle Nebula—a 6,500 light-year journey from our solar system in the constellation Serpens—the iconic “Pillars of Creation” appear in a ghostly formation. Made of cool hydrogen gas and dust, these incubators for new stars are dense celestial structures that have survived longer than their surroundings. Ultraviolet light from incredibly hot newborn stars gradually erodes the surrounding space and illuminates the ethereal surfaces of the pillars and the streams of gas they emit.
Since July, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has released numerous photographs of the cosmos in unprecedented detail. To process this image, scientists combined captures taken with the telescope’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), which brought different elements into focus. Near-infrared light emphasizes the stars, including thousands of newly-formed orange spheres that hover around the columns. The saturated hues around the interstellar formations are visible thanks to the mid-infrared contribution, which highlights the diffused orange dust around the top, deep indigo of the densest regions, and bright neutral color of the pillars. Lava-red spots on the upper parts of the spires contain young, embedded stars that will continue to form for millions of years.
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Back in 1995, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope documented the now iconic Pillars of Creation, a photo of a celestial area known for its staggering number of star formations. That initial image offered an illuminating glimpse of the interstellar stone-like columns made of gas and dust, although a composite recently released from the James Webb Space Telescope uses near-infrared light to highlight the region in even more detail.
This new 122-megapixel photo features a deep-blue expanse studded with light, and the pillars themselves appear less opaque than in the earlier shot. When cropped, the new image shows the Eagle Nebula, located 6,500 light-years away. The bright red fiery orbs apparent from this view are new stars, which are formed “when knots with sufficient mass form within the pillars of gas and dust… begin to collapse under their own gravity (and) slowly heat up.”
Some of the incandescent bodies still in the early stages of life also produce undulating, lava-like ejections, which NASA describes:
Young stars periodically shoot out supersonic jets that collide with clouds of material, like these thick pillars. This sometimes also results in bow shocks, which can form wavy patterns like a boat does as it moves through water. The crimson glow comes from the energetic hydrogen molecules that result from jets and shocks. This is evident in the second and third pillars from the top–the NIRCam image is practically pulsing with their activity. These young stars are estimated to be only a few hundred thousand years old.
Researchers say the new photo will allow more accurate counts of new formations and their development.
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It’s been two months since NASA unveiled the first images captured by the exceptionally powerful James Webb Space Telescope, and a pair of new composites taken by the observer’s infrared NIRCam showcase Jupiter’s aurora and unique characteristics in similarly striking detail.
Against a dark backdrop filled with hazy dots that are likely distant galaxies, the wide view features two of the planet’s moons, Amalthea and Adrastea, and its rings. According to the European Space Agency, which released the images, the dusty halos shown are one million times fainter than the gaseous mass they encircle.
For the close-up, astronomers applied three filters to the NIRCam to capture the tiny details of the largest planet in our solar system. Zeroing in on the Jovian atmosphere, the image shows two polar auroras shining through red hues, with brilliant greens and yellows swirling around. “A third filter, mapped to blues, showcases light that is reflected from a deeper main cloud. The Great Red Spot, a famous storm so big it could swallow Earth, appears white in these views, as do other clouds because they are reflecting a lot of sunlight,” the agency says.
Because the human eye can’t see infrared light, scientist Judy Schmidt collaborated with astronomers to make the planet’s details visible. (via Peta Pixel)
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This week, the first images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope amazed and daunted us with their inordinately deep looks at the cosmos, particularly the shot of the glimmering star-forming region known as the “Cosmic Cliffs” of the Carina Nebula. The team over at the Catskills-based studio Nervous System translated this galactic masterpiece into a new, similarly expansive infinity puzzle intended to be tiled continuously, with no predetermined shape, start, or end. Similar to its other designs, this iteration includes four whimsy cuts in the shape of an astronaut, a shooting star, a satellite, and the gold mirrors of the groundbreaking telescope itself. Try your hand at puzzling together distant galaxies by picking up the 264-piece jigsaw from the Nervous System shop.
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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope unveiled its first-ever collection of high-resolution color images capturing an exceptional amount of detail about the universe. The instrument reaches deeper into the cosmos than any before.
Launched in December, Webb is the world’s largest and most powerful observer with the ability to view cosmic bodies like the atmospheres of exoplanets, or those outside our solar system, and some of the first galaxies to emerge following the Big Bang 13.5 billion years ago. The telescope is equipped with a host of near-infrared tools that will help visualize galactic phenomena and celestial bodies that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. Webb is capable of getting four times closer to the cosmological event than the Hubble Space Telescope, which helps scientists better understand how the universe has evolved since.
Preparation for the mission began in the 1990s, and the 6.7-ton telescope is currently focused on documenting planetary evolution and spectroscopic data about their chemical makeup, which involves targeting five cosmic objects: the gassy planet WASP-96 b that’s about 1,150 light-years away, the Southern Ring Nebula, Stephan’s Quintet galaxy, the SMACS 0723 galaxy clusters, and the 7,600 light-years away Carina Nebula with enormous stars that dwarf the sun.
The very first images include a stunning composite of SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago. Rich with glimmering galaxies, the composite comprises “a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground,” administrators said in a statement. There’s also the mesmerizing Southern Ring Nebula, which is comprised of shells of dust and gas released by two dying stars, and Stephen’s Quintet, five glowing galaxies captured in Webb’s largest composite to date, reaching a size that would span approximately one-fifth of the moon’s diameter.
Perhaps the most stunning image from the first release of visuals is that of the star-forming region in the Carina Nebula, which shows what researchers refer to as “cosmic cliffs,” or what appears to be rugged, mountain-like forms that are actually the edges of immense gaseous activity. The tallest pinnacles of that celestial body are about seven light-years high.
Webb was designed to spend the next decade in space, however, a successful launch preserved substantial fuel, and NASA now anticipates a trove of insights about the universe for the next twenty years. Follow its movements with NASA’s tracker, Where is Webb?
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