NASA’s latest deep space observatory will soon turn its eyes to a relatively nearby region bursting with young stars.
The James Webb Space Telescope has almost completed commissioning and will release its first operational images July 12. Next comes a program of early science, including an investigation into the Trapezium Cluster, a stellar nursery in the Orion Nebula about 1,350 light-years from Earth.
Packed with gas and dust, the cluster includes about 1,000 young stars packed into a region just four light-years across, officials of the Webb consortium said in a statement.
The stars are also quite young (about a million years old) compared to the 4.5 billion years old Sun† While the star at the center of our solar system is in its midlife, the Trapezium stars are still toddlers, only about three or four days old.
Astronomers using the Webb telescope will study this cluster to understand stars and their planetary systems in the very early stages [of their evolution]”, officials wrote in a 2020 pronunciation (opens in new tab) about the Trapezium study.
Live updates: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Mission
Related† How the James Webb Space Telescope Works in Photos
A team led by Mark McCaughrean, Webb’s interdisciplinary star formation scientist and senior advisor at the European Space Agency, plans to focus on three phenomena present in Trapezium.
The first will be observing young objects, including: brown dwarfs (bodies that were too small to ignite nuclear fusion in their cores, but too large to be classified as planets) and free-floating planets that do not orbit a star. These kinds of puzzling objects could provide more clues about planet formation, either as part of star formation or on their own, consortium officials said in the report. pronunciation (opens in new tab)†
The second study will study the formation of planets in early phases, using Webb’s infrared detectors to measure exoplanets potentially form in young stellar disks.
“By comparing” [Webb images] With visible-light images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, the team will learn more about the composition of the dust, which will help them understand the very early stages of planet formation,” the consortium said.
The latest of the trio of studies involves young star jet and outflow, which consortium officials said are integral to star formation.
“Because the Orion Nebula is home to many, many young stars, there are many jets and outflows in the region, both large and small,” the statement added. “The team will use Webb to measure the fine structures in these outflows and determine their velocities, as well as their cumulative feedback on the surrounding star-forming clouds.”
Webb is perfectly optimized for such studies because it detects infrared light, essentially heat radiated from the observed objects, allowing the telescope to peer through dust and even detect bodies that aren’t particularly hot. In addition, the telescope’s position in deep space keeps it away from Earth’s atmosphere, interfering with infrared observations, the consortium said.
McCaughrean added that he is intrigued by the dynamics of Trapezium and about stellar nurseries in general, and looks forward to Webb’s help in providing new insights into these regions of star birth.
“We are very interested in understanding how stars and their planetary systems develop in the very early stages,” he said.
#James #Webb #Space #Telescope #prepares #star #birth #high #definition