JWST Captures a Newborn Star Starting Life in The Middle of a Dusty Hourglass

On Wednesday, the James Webb Space Telescope released its most recent image of celestial majesty, an ethereal hourglass of orange and blue dust being shot out from a newly forming star at its centre.

According to NASA and the European Space Agency, the colourful clouds are only visible in infrared light and had never been seen before being captured by Webb's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam).

Ejections from the protostar within the dark cloud L152. (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI. Image processing: J. DePasquale, A. Pagan, and A. Koekemoer (STScI))

The edge of a rotating disc of gas at the hourglass's neck obscures the very young star known as protostar L1527.

However, light spills out from the disk's top and bottom, illuminating the hourglass-shaped clouds.

The clouds are created by material ejected from the star colliding with surrounding matter, the statement said. The dust is thinnest in the blue sections and thickest in the orange parts, it added.

The protostar, which is just 100,000 years old and at the earliest stage of star formation, is not yet able to generate its own energy.

Ejections from the protostar have cleared out cavities above and below it, whose boundaries glow orange and blue in this infrared view. (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI. Image processing: J. DePasquale, A. Pagan, and A. Koekemoer (STScI))

The surrounding black disk, which is around the size of our solar system, will feed material to the protostar until it eventually reaches "the threshold for nuclear fusion to begin," the statement said.

"Ultimately, this view of L1527 provides a window into what our Sun and Solar System looked like in their infancy," it added.

The protostar is located in the Taurus molecular cloud, a stellar nursery home to hundreds of nearly formed stars around 430 light years from Earth.

Operational since July, Webb is the most powerful space telescope ever built and has already unleashed a raft of unprecedented data as well as stunning images.

Scientists are hopeful it will herald a new era of discovery.

One of the main goals for the US$10-billion telescope is to study the life cycle of stars. Another main research focus is on exoplanets, planets outside Earth's Solar System.

© Agence France-Presse

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