(ORDO NEWS) — In one of the first Webb images, scientists found dozens of jets and outflows from young stars previously hidden by dust clouds.
The discovery marks the beginning of a new era of studying how stars like our Sun form and how radiation from nearby massive stars can influence the development of planets.
Space rocks, a star-forming region at the edge of a giant gas cavity inside the cluster NGC 3324, have long intrigued astronomers.
The James Webb Space Telescope is ideal for studying this area, as it was designed to detect jets and outflows that are only visible in the infrared. Webb’s capabilities also allow researchers to track the movement of other objects previously spotted by Hubble.
By analyzing data with a specific wavelength of infrared light (4.7 microns), astronomers have discovered two dozen previously unknown outflows from extremely young stars. Many of the discovered protostars are poised to become low-mass stars like our Sun.
Molecular hydrogen is a vital ingredient for the formation of new stars and an excellent indicator of the early stages of their formation.
As young stars pick up material from the gas and dust around them, most of them also eject some of that material back in jets and outflows.
These jets then act like a snowplow, blasting into the environment. The Webb observations show how molecular hydrogen is picked up and excited by these jets.
“Jets like these are pointers to the most exciting part of the star formation process. We only see them for a short period of time when the protostar is actively accreting,” explained co-author Nathan Smith of the University of Arizona in Tucson.
This period of very early star formation is particularly difficult to capture because it is a relatively fleeting event for each individual star, lasting only a few thousand years.
“In the image, first published in July, you see hints of this activity, but these jets are only visible when you take a deep dive – analyze data from each of the various filters and analyze each area separately,” said team member John Morse from California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
By studying the new Webb observations, astronomers are also getting an idea of just how active these star forming regions are, even in a relatively short amount of time.
By comparing data obtained by Webb with archival data from Hubble 16 years ago, scientists were able to track the speed of the jets and the direction in which they move.
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