Above NASA’s Webb Telescope images shows Tarantula Nebula (Space Gaint) Protostars still gaining mass are captured by Webb’s MIRI instrument while they are tucked away in dense gas and dust clouds. The James Webb Space Telescope, operated by NASA, discovered hundreds of newborn stars in the stellar nursery known as 30 Doradus that had never before been observed.
The Tarantula Nebula has long been a favourite of astronomers researching star formation especially at NASA because of the appearance of its dusty filaments in earlier telescope photos.
Webb also exposes young stars, far off background galaxies, and the precise structure and makeup of the nebula’s gas and dust.
The Tarantula Nebula is the biggest nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy and is barely 161,000 light-years away.
The Tarantula Nebula is the largest and brightest star-forming region in the Local Group, the galaxies closest to our Milky Way, and is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy, barely 161,000 light-years distant.
The biggest, hottest stars in history call it home.
Three of Webb’s high-resolution infrared instruments were directed at the tarantula by astronomers.
The area appears to be the interior of a silk-lined burrowing tarantula’s home when viewed with Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera.
A cluster of massive young stars that glow pale blue in the image have hollowed out the nebula’s cavity in the centre of the NIRCam image.
Only the most dense regions of the nebula’s surroundings withstand erosion by the strong stellar winds of these stars, generating pillars that seem to point back toward the cluster. These pillars hold protostars that are in the process of formation; soon, they will emerge from their dusty cocoons and take turns sculpting the nebula.
One very young star was observed by Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) doing just that. Previously, astronomers hypothesised that this star might be a little older and now clearing out a bubble around itself. NIRSpec revealed that the star was still surrounded by an insulating cloud of dust and that it was only just starting to escape from its pillar. This episode of star formation in action would not have been discovered without Webb’s high-resolution spectra at infrared wavelengths.
When observed in the longer infrared wavelengths picked up by Webb’s Mid-infrared Instrument, the region appears differently (MIRI). The colder gas and dust sparkle while the bright stars fade. Points of light in the stellar nursery clouds are embedded protostars that are still accumulating mass. Longer mid-infrared wavelengths penetrate the nebula’s dust, finally revealing a hitherto unobserved cosmic environment, while shorter wavelengths are absorbed or dispersed by the dust grains and never reach Webb to be measured.