The James Webb Space Telescope snapped a breathtaking picture of a huge space area where lots of brand-new stars are popping up in a big group. This special place, called N79 is in the Large Magellanic Cloud a galaxy hanging out near our Milky Way.
It’s always darkest before the dawn.
This image from the Webb telescope shows N79, a massive star-forming region. At mid-infrared wavelengths, Webb reveals glowing gas and dust deep within the clouds, as well as embedded baby stars: https://t.co/U3MQwO2kvK pic.twitter.com/eAU7L08i2A
— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) January 23, 2024
The world’s most powerful space observatory used its cool Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) to capture a picture of a huge space area filled with ionized hydrogen atoms. The image shows a fantastic cosmic scene stretching about 1,630 light-years across.
Think of N79 as the little brother or sister of the famous Tarantula Nebula (also known as 30 Doradus) which the Webb telescope has been checking out lately. Surprisingly, studies suggest that N79 is twice as good at making stars compared to the Tarantula Nebula in the last 500,000 years.
This view zooms in on a big group of gas and dust in N79 highlighting the southern part called N79 South (S1). Around this bright spot there’s a cool ‘starburst’ design, which are those spike patterns you see in the picture. They happen because telescopes like Webb use mirrors to grab light.
Those cool patterns show up because Webb’s 18 main mirror parts form a hexagon shape. You can really see them around super bright and small things. The MIRI, capturing longer light waves gives us a special peek into N79’s glowing clouds.
Unlike shorter waves that usually get blocked these longer ones dig deeper into the clouds. This infrared view also lets us spot baby stars still covered in the nebula.
This is just one piece of the Webb program puzzle where they’re diving into the study of how the disks and layers around developing stars change as they grow. They’re looking at stars of different sizes and ages to figure out the whole story of how these things evolve.
— Kelly Swanson (@kellysswanson) January 23, 2024
Astronomers are fascinated by places like N79 because the chemicals there are similar to what we saw in the massive star-forming zones during the early days of the universe when stars were forming a lot.
N79 is special because it’s like a time capsule, showing us a different kind of star-making process compared to what’s happening in the Milky Way now. With the James Webb Space Telescope, astronomers can now compare how stars are born in N79 to how they form in far-off galaxies.