NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s two cameras were used to create an unprecedented view of the Carina Nebula’s star-forming region. A combined infrared image acquired by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) unveils previously unseen star birth regions. This image is a variant of the previously released image of the Carina Nebula. (Here is a zoomable image)
It is actually the edge of the nearby, young, star-forming region NGC 3324 that appears as craggy mountains on a moonlit evening. About 7,600 light years away, this gigantic cavity rim is called the Cosmic Cliffs.
This cavernous region was carved out of the nebula by high-energy ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds generated from young, highly massive, hot stars in the bubble’s center. By slowly eroding away the nebula’s wall, high-energy radiation from these stars shapes the nebula.
NIRCam is capable of detecting hundreds of previously unseen stars and even numerous background galaxies due to its crisp resolution and exceptional sensitivity. Mid-infrared images of young stars and their dusty disks that form planets appear pink and red in MIRI’s vision. Using MIRI, astronomers are able to uncover the stellar sources of jets and outflows and structures embedded in the dust. Using MIRI, the hydrocarbons and other compounds in the ridges glow, creating the look of jagged rock surfaces.
Below are a few highlights from this image.
Radiation from intense ultraviolet light is the cause of the faint “steam” rising from the celestial “mountains.”
Young stars radiate blistering ultraviolet radiation through their peaks and pillars above the glowing gas wall.
As newborn stars are born, their intense radiation and stellar winds create bubbles and cavities.
Nascent stars are enveloped in dust, which emits protostellar jets and outflows, and are visible in a golden color. Using MIRI, these features can be attributed to young, stellar sources. For example, when viewed with MIRI, the feature at left that appears to be a comet with NIRCam is revealed to be an outflow from a dust-enshrouded, newborn star.
In the top-center of the ridge, a “blow-out” erupts, spewing material into space. Using MIRI, the star that caused this phenomenon can be revealed through the dust.
The wavelengths shown here show an unusual “arch,” which looks like a bent-over cylinder.
Webb has chronicled this rare event by using its extreme sensitivity and exquisite spatial resolution, which allowed it to capture this period of very early star formation.
James Dunlop cataloged NGC 3324 in 1826. Carina Nebula (NGC 3372) is visible from the Southern Hemisphere and is located in the constellation of Carina. In addition, a supergiant star called Eta Carinae and the Keyhole Nebula resides in the Carina Nebula.
NIRCam was developed by Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center and the University of Arizona.
In partnership with JPL and the University of Arizona, the MIRI European Consortium designed and built the instrument with contributions from ESA and NASA.
Don’t forget to check out this recently leaked photograph taken by the James Webb Space Telescope of the Galaxy NGC 628.
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