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The Horsehead Nebula is famously known for…looking like a horse’s head. But there is more to this cloud of dust and gas than meets the eye. Webb captured the top of the "horse's mane," giving us the sharpest infrared images of the region to date: go.nasa.gov/4deZDLI

The ultraviolet radiation from young massive stars is what influences the chemistry within the nebula - this region is considered one of the best for studying how radiation from stars interacts with interstellar matter. 

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This portion of the Horsehead Nebula is about 0.8 light years across. In the near-infrared, young stars peep through the ethereal blueish clouds, and distant galaxies sprinkle the background.

 

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Until Webb, it was a challenge to observe star clusters in the dense central area of our Milky Way — which bulges out, full of old stars and dust! Here’s Webb’s view of NGC 6440.

Orbiting within the Galactic bulge, 28,000 light years away, NGC 6440 is a globular cluster. Globular clusters are full of older stars (hundreds of thousands to millions of them!) tightly bound together by gravity.

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An international team of astronomers has announced the detection of two of the earliest and most distant galaxies known. The light of both of them comes from just 300 million years after the Big Bang and it was possible to observe them only thanks to the power of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

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The galaxies are located in a region near the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, the famous observations by the Hubble Space Telescope showing some of the most distant galaxies known at the time. JWST's larger mirrors and infrared capabilities allowed astronomers to see even farther into the universe.

“These galaxies join a small but growing population of galaxies from the first half billion years of cosmic history where we can really probe the stellar populations and the distinctive patterns of chemical elements within them,” Dr Francesco D’Eugenio of the Kavli Institute for Cosmology at the University of Cambridge, one of the team behind the discovery, said in a statement.

 

Read more about it here. 

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Webb’s new red, white and blue image features a star-to-be: a protostar. Only about 100,000 years old, this relatively young object is hidden in the “neck” of the hourglass-shaped cloud of gas and dust.

 

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Webb has captured a stellar phenomenon for the first time.

See how those bright red, clumpy streaks in the top left are all slanted in the same direction to the same degree? They show aligned protostellar outflows, or jets of gas from newborn stars.

“Astronomers have long assumed that as clouds collapse to form stars, the stars will tend to spin in the same direction,” said principal investigator Klaus Pontoppidan of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “However, this has not been seen so directly before. These aligned, elongated structures are a historical record of the fundamental way that stars are born.”

Previously, the objects appeared as blobs or were invisible in optical wavelengths. Webb’s sensitive infrared vision was able to pierce through the thick dust, resolving the stars and their outflows.

This area is part of the Serpens Nebula. Located 1,300 light-years from Earth, it’s only 1-2 million years old — very young in cosmic terms! It’s home to a dense cluster of newly forming stars (about 100,000 years old), seen at the center of this image. Learn more: go.nasa.gov/45wUmvE

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Webb is cracking open the Crab Nebula to help scientists figure out what is inside. 

The Crab is the remnant of what was once a massive star, but it’s highly unusual in composition, making scientists think its star might not have been typical either. Webb also mapped light emitted from the dust in the Crab Nebula in high resolution for the first time. Unlike other supernova remnants, which have dust concentrated at their centers, the Crab Nebula’s dust is found in the outer shell’s dense filaments.

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These glittering “gems,” or glowing orange dots, are actually four images of the same thing — an extremely bright galactic core known as a quasar. The quasar appears like an arc with four bright spots because of an intriguing effect called gravitational lensing. 

The gravity of a massive foreground object, in this case a galaxy, is so powerful that it has warped time and space around it. Light followed that bend and took various paths, magnifying and creating multiple copies of the quasar behind the galaxy.

Gravitational lensing is a great way for scientists to study very distant objects that might be too faint or far. Combining this natural “magnifying glass” with Webb’s mid-infrared capabilities, scientists can learn more about the quasar's central black hole. Webb's observations will also probe the nature of dark matter, an invisible form of matter that accounts for most of the universe's mass.

Read more: esawebb.org/images/potm2406a/

 

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