(ORDO NEWS) — This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” dotted with glittering stars is actually the edge of the nearby young star-forming region NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula.
Taken in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals previously unseen star-forming regions for the first time.
Called Space Rocks, Webb’s 3D images look like rocky mountains on a moonlit evening. This is actually the edge of a giant gaseous cavity inside NGC 3324, and the highest “peaks” in this image are about 7 light-years high.
The cave region was carved out of the nebula by intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar wind from extremely massive, hot, young stars located at the center of the bubble above the region shown in this image.
The searing ultraviolet radiation from young stars forms a wall of the nebula, slowly breaking it down. Bright pillars rise above the luminous wall of gas, resisting this radiation.
The “steam” rising from the celestial “mountains” is actually hot ionized gas and hot dust flowing out of the nebula under the influence of relentless radiation.
Webb discovers nascent stellar nurseries and individual stars that are completely obscured in visible light images. Thanks to Webb’s sensitivity to infrared radiation, he can penetrate space dust to see these objects.
The protostellar jets that are clearly visible in this image are emitted from some of the young stars. The earliest sources appear as red dots in a dark, dusty region of the cloud.
Objects in the earliest, fastest stages of star formation are difficult to capture, but Webb’s extreme sensitivity, spatial resolution and imaging capabilities allow these elusive events to be chronicled.
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