NASA’s Webb Space Telescope Captures Dazzling Cosmic Fireworks Display

hero webb l1527 image
A new image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope captured a cosmic firework display just ahead of the 4th of July, otherwise known as Independence Day in the US. At the center of the celestial pyrotechnics is a protostar surrounded by a molecular cloud, named L1527.

As Americans prepare for all the cookouts, festivities, and fireworks that come with 4th of July celebrations, NASA’s Webb telescope is searching areas of deep space for objects to capture with its high-resolution cameras. That is just what Webb did when it captured the image of L1527 with its Mid-Infrared Camera (MIRI) recently. Webb previously captured L1527 with its Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), revealing the deep space object in more vibrant colors (see image below).

L1527 resides about 460 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. In the most recent image captured by Webb, the more diffuse blue light and the filamentary structures in the image come from organic compounds know as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The red at the center of the image is an energized, thick layer of gases and dust that surround the protostar.

previous webb image l1527
Previous image of L1527 captured by Webb.

A protostar is a neutron star that emits rapid and periodic pulses of radiation, according to NASA. It is also a relatively young object, typically about 100,000 years old. In both images of L1527, the proton remains surrounded by its parent molecular cloud.

In both of Webb’s images, the effects of outflows are shown as being emitted in opposite directions along the protostar’s rotation axis as the object consumes gas and dust from the nearby cloud. The outflows take on the form of bow shocks to the surrounding molecular cloud, according to NASA, and appear as filamentary structures throughout the images. These outflows are also responsible for the creation of the bright hourglass structure with the molecular cloud as they energize the surrounding matter and cause the region above and below to glow.

Eventually, the protostar will consume, destroy, and push away much of the molecular cloud, and most of the structures seen in the image. Once it finishes gathering mass, the colorful display will end, and the star itself will become the more prominent feature, while becoming viewable to visible-light telescopes.

Webb’s view of L1527 and the forming of a new star is just one example of what the observatory is capable of. Stay tuned to HotHardware for more of Webb’s images as it continues to search the night sky.
Tags:  space, NASA, telescope, star, webb