A Year of Stunning Cosmic Revelations by the James Webb Telescope

A first-year image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows a star birth with a detailed, impressionistic structure never seen before. The object is the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex, the closest star-forming region to Earth. It’s a relatively small, quiet star nursery, but you wouldn’t know it from Webb’s disturbing close-up. Explosive jets from young stars cross the image, impacting the surrounding interstellar gas and emitting molecular hydrogen, shown in red. Some stars show the telltale shadow of a circumstellar disk, the formation of future planetary systems.
The young stars at the center of many of these disks are Sun-sized or smaller. The largest in this image is the S1 star, which appears in the middle of a luminous cavern that is carved out by its stellar wind in the lower half of the image. The light-colored gas surrounding S1 contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a family of carbon-based molecules among the most common compounds found in space.
Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STSCI, Klaus Pontoppitan (STSCI), Alyssa Bacon (STSCI)

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope continues to surprise with an action-packed image that belies a relatively quiet star-forming region.

James Webb Space Telescope caps a successful first year of science, and stunning imagery, with a detailed view of the closest star-forming region to Earth, the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, resulting in a dynamic image that belies the region’s relative quiet – and practically begs for explanation of what exactly we are looking at. While dual jets have been seen blasting out of new stars before, the texture that Webb’s NIRCam instrument reveals in the multiple jets crisscrossing the image is unprecedented. In striking contrast, the lower half of the image is dominated by a glowing cave of dust being lit up and eroded by the most massive star in the scene. Its stellar neighbors are the mass of our Sun or smaller, with some displaying the telltale shadows of protoplanetary disks—meaning we are looking at planetary systems potentially similar to our own in their earliest stages.

Rho Ophiuchi (Webb NIRCam Compass Image)

Image of star formation in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, with compass arrows, scale bar, and color key for reference.
The north and east compass arrows show the orientation of the image on the sky. Note that the relationship between north and east on the sky (as seen from below) is flipped relative to direction arrows on a map of the ground (as seen from above).
The color key shows which filters from Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) instrument were used when collecting the light. The color of each filter name is the visible light color used to represent the infrared light that passes through that filter.
Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Klaus Pontoppidan (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

Webb Space Telescope Celebrates First Year of Science With Close-up on Birth of Sun-like Stars

From our cosmic backyard in the solar system to distant galaxies near the dawn of time, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has delivered on its promise of revealing the universe like never before in its first year of science operations. To celebrate the completion of a successful first year, NASA has released Webb’s image of a small star-forming region in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex.

“In just one year, the James Webb Space Telescope has transformed humanity’s view of the cosmos, peering into dust clouds and seeing light from faraway corners of the universe for the very first time. Every new image is a new discovery, empowering scientists around the globe to ask and answer questions they once could never dream of,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Webb is an investment in American innovation but also a scientific feat made possible with NASA’s international partners that share a can-do spirit to push the boundaries of what is known to be possible. Thousands of engineers, scientists, and leaders poured their life’s passion into this mission, and their efforts will continue to improve our understanding of the origins of the universe – and our place in it.”

The new Webb image released on July 12 features the nearest star-forming region to us. Its proximity at 390 light-years allows for a highly detailed close-up, with no foreground stars in the intervening space.

“On its first anniversary, the James Webb Space Telescope has already delivered upon its promise to unfold the universe, gifting humanity with a breathtaking treasure trove of images and science that will last for decades,” said Nicola Fox, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “An engineering marvel built by the world’s leading scientists and engineers, Webb has given us a more intricate understanding of galaxies, stars, and the atmospheres of planets outside of our solar system than ever before, laying the groundwork for NASA to lead the world in a new era of scientific discovery and the search for habitable worlds.”

Webb’s image shows a region containing approximately 50 young stars, all of them similar in mass to the Sun, or smaller. The darkest areas are the densest, where thick dust cocoons still-forming protostars. Huge bipolar jets of molecular hydrogen, represented in red, dominate the image, appearing horizontally across the upper third and vertically on the right. These occur when a star first bursts through its natal envelope of cosmic dust, shooting out a pair of opposing jets into space like a newborn first stretching her arms out into the world. In contrast, the star S1 has carved out a glowing cave of dust in the lower half of the image. It is the only star in the image that is significantly more massive than the Sun.


This video tours part of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, the star-forming region closest to Earth. The film was taken to celebrate the first anniversary of the start of science operations for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Explosive jets from young stars cross the image, impacting the surrounding interstellar gas and emitting molecular hydrogen, shown in red. Some stars show the telltale shadow of a circumstellar disk, the formation of future planetary systems. At one time our entire solar system, encompassing the entire history of life as we know it, would have appeared from afar. Below, a glowing dust cave dominates the image. It is carved by the S1 star at the center of the crater – the only star in the image significantly larger than our Sun. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Greg Bacon (STScI)

“Webb’s image of Ro Obiucci allows us to see a very short period in the stellar life cycle with new clarity. Our own Sun experienced such a phase long ago, and now we have the technology to see the beginning of another star’s story,” said Webb, who worked as a project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Klaus Pontoppidan said, before the telescope’s launch and through the first year of operation.

The film shows the story told by some of the stars Shades indicate Protoplanetary disks – future planetary systems in the making. Find out more in the photo video tour (embedded above) or explore for yourself Zoomable image.

A whole year, across the whole sky

From its first deep-field footage of President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Nelson living in the White House, the Web has promised to show us the universe like never before. However, Webb revealed more than just distant galaxies in the early universe.

“When we have a full year’s worth of data from targets across the sky, the breadth of the scientific web is now becoming clear,” said Eric Smith, associate director for research in the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. . “Webb’s first year of science has not only taught us new things about our universe, but has revealed the telescope’s capabilities far beyond our expectations, meaning future discoveries will be even more amazing.” The global astronomy community has spent the past year excitedly looking at Webb’s initial public data and getting a feel for how to act with it.


Travel to the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex. The journey begins with a ground-based image by astrophotographer Akira Fujii, then transitions to a plate from a digital sky survey. Next appears a two-color image from the now-retired infrared NASA Spitzer Space Telescope, and then the video transitions to an image of the star-forming region from the James Webb Space Telescope. The star-forming region captured in Webb’s image is small and not particularly active compared to other well-known star-forming regions. The region’s close proximity to Earth (390 light-years) allows the web to be captured in such detail as to emphasize the structure of jets erupting from young solar-mass stars and the dusty “cave” of glowing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

Beyond the stunning infrared images, what really excites scientists is the Web’s crisp spectrum — the detailed information that can be gleaned from the light by the telescope’s spectroscopic instruments. Webb’s spectra have confirmed the distances of some previously unobserved distant galaxies, and discovered the earliest, most distant supermassive black holes. They identified the compositions of planetary atmospheres (or lack thereof) in greater detail than ever before, and for the first time narrowed down what kind of atmospheres might exist on rocky exoplanets. They have also revealed the chemical makeup of stellar nurseries and protoplanetary disks, the detection of water, organic carbon-containing molecules, and more. Already, Webb’s observations have resulted in hundreds of scientific papers answering long-standing questions and raising new ones to address with Webb.

The breadth of Web science is also evident in its observations of the region of space most familiar to us—our own solar system. Faint rings of gas giants emerge from the darkness, dotted with moons, and Webb shows distant galaxies in the background. By comparing the detections of water and other molecules in our solar system with the disks of other, much younger planetary systems, Webb is helping to generate clues about our own origins—how we know how Earth became habitable. .

“With a year of science under our belts, we know how powerful this telescope is and have delivered a year of fascinating data and discoveries,” said Jane Rigby, Webb senior project scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center. Observations for the second year This is based on everything we have learned so far. Webb’s scientific work is just beginning – there is much more to come.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science laboratory. Webb solves the mysteries of our solar system, looks beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and explores the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. WEB is an international project led by NASA’s partners, ESA.[{” attribute=””>European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

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