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The James Webb Space Telescope has just completed a successful first year of science.…

The James Webb Space Telescope has just completed a successful first year of science.…

The first anniversary image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope displays star birth like it’s never been seen before, full of detailed, impressionistic texture. The subject is the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, the closest star-forming region to Earth. It is a relatively small, quiet stellar nursery, but you’d never know it from Webb’s chaotic close-up. Jets bursting from young stars crisscross the image, impacting the surrounding interstellar gas and lighting up molecular hydrogen, shown in red. Some stars display the telltale shadow of a circumstellar disk, the makings of future planetary systems.

The young stars at the center of many of these disks are similar in mass to the Sun, or smaller. The heftiest in this image is the star S1, which appears amid a glowing cave it is carving out with its stellar winds in the lower half of the image. The lighter-colored gas surrounding S1 consists of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a family of carbon-based molecules that are among the most common compouds found in space. Download the full-resolution version from the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and K. Pontoppidan (STScI). Image Processing: A. Pagan (STScI)ALT

The James Webb Space Telescope has just completed a successful first year of science. Let’s celebrate by seeing the birth of Sun-like stars in this brand-new image from the Webb telescope!

This is a small star-forming region in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. At 390 light-years away, it’s the closest star-forming region to Earth. There are around 50 young stars here, all of them similar in mass to the Sun, or smaller. The darkest areas are the densest, where thick dust cocoons still-forming protostars. Huge red bipolar jets of molecular hydrogen dominate the image, appearing horizontally across the upper third and vertically on the right. These occur when a star first bursts through its natal envelope of cosmic dust, shooting out a pair of opposing jets into space like a newborn first stretching her arms out into the world. In contrast, the star S1 has carved out a glowing cave of dust in the lower half of the image. It is the only star in the image that is significantly more massive than the Sun.

Thanks to Webb’s sensitive instruments, we get to witness moments like this at the beginning of a star’s life. One year in, Webb’s science mission is only just getting started. The second year of observations has already been selected, with plans to build on an exciting first year that exceeded expectations. Here’s to many more years of scientific discovery with Webb.

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Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Klaus Pontoppidan (STScI)

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