James Webb Space Telescope: the extraordinary photo of the Pillars of Creation

James Webb Space Telescope: the extraordinary photo of the Pillars of Creation

James Webb Space Telescope

We have a magnificent new image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope of the iconic Pillars of Creation, the dense columns of gas and interstellar dust of the Eagle Nebula (6,500 light-years from Earth) hosting stars in formation, first captured by the telescope. Hubble in 1995: this time, as reported by NASA, it is thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, which immortalized the same subject as its predecessor but with a detail never seen before. The data deriving from the evocative image, says the US space agency, will help researchers study the patterns of star formation, better understanding how, over millions of years, they originate from these clouds and their evolution.

The first photos of an icon

It was April 1st 1995 when the Wide field and planetary camera 2 of the Hubble Space Telescope captured for the first time an image that soon became a symbol Space: The photo depicted dark and three-dimensional structures, similar to rock formations, inside the Eagle Nebula, a star-forming region 6,500 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation of the Serpent. The photograph, actually consisting of three images based on the emission of different elements, rendered, to distinguish them, each with a different color (red for sulfur, green for hydrogen and blue for oxygen) soon came renamed the "Pillars of Creation", as those massive gaseous clouds concealed the birth of new stars within them, in particular from small dense and compact pockets of interstellar gas, known as evaporating gaseous globules. In fact, inside the pillars, light years long, the interstellar gas is dense enough to collapse under its own weight, forming young stars that continue to grow, accumulating more and more mass from the surrounding environment. Over the years the Eagle Nebula has been observed many more times: for example, in addition to being revisited in 2014 by Hubble himself, in 2012 the European Space Agency (ESA) Herschel telescope released a new image in wavelengths far infrared, allowing astronomers to study the inside of the pillars and better observe the forming stars. In short, since 1995, every advanced tool has offered researchers new details on this fascinating region of Space.

The image according to Webb

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Video-tour of the Pillars of Creation by Webb. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI); Danielle Kirshenblat (STScI).

Now, the James Webb Space Telescope (Jwst), which released its first images last July, offers astronomers a new version of the Pillars of Creation, with a more wide and ultra-detailed: the NirCam, Webb's infrared camera, in fact, managed to show the less opaque gas clouds, allowing you to view even the proto-stars in formation (the bright red spheres outside one of the ). Also visible, like bright red wavy trails, at the edges of the pillars are the ejections of forming stars - which scientists believe to be only a few hundred thousand years old. Despite this ultra-detailed vision, NirCam has not captured galaxies beyond the clouds, at great cosmic distances from them: as reported by NASA, the interstellar medium, a mix of translucent gas and dust, blocks our view of the deeper Universe. . Be that as it may, the new image seems to promise a lot for the study of stars in formation.

“Webb's new vision - reads the note from the space agency - will help researchers renew their star formation models , allowing for more accurate counts of newly formed stars and the quantities of gas and dust in this region. Over time, they will begin to build a clearer understanding of how stars form and explode from these dusty clouds over millions of years. ”

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