The Webb Space Telescope is celebrating its one-year anniversary of capturing awe-inspiring cosmic images with one of its most remarkable pictures yet. NASA revealed a stunning close-up photograph on Wednesday, showcasing the birth of dozens of stars.
The image unveils a cloud complex situated 390 light-years away, which may sound distant, but it’s equivalent to almost 6 trillion miles (9.7 trillion kilometers). Despite its relatively small and serene appearance, the region is teeming with illuminated gases, hydrogen jets, and dense cocoons of dust that harbor the delicate beginnings of new stars.
All of these nascent stars captured in the photograph are comparable in size to our own sun. Scientists have hailed this breathtaking image as the clearest depiction yet of the early stages of stellar development.
“It’s like catching a glimpse of what our own solar system might have looked like billions of years ago during its formation,” commented Eric Smith, a NASA program scientist, in an interview with The Associated Press.
Smith also highlighted the time delay of the starlight captured in the image, emphasizing that it actually originated 390 years ago. In 1633, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei famously faced trial in Rome for asserting that the Earth revolves around the sun. In 1992, the Vatican acknowledged the injustice done to Galileo.
The cloud complex known as Rho Ophiuchi serves as the closest star-forming region to Earth. It can be observed in the sky near the border between the constellations Ophiuchus and Scorpius, which represent the serpent-bearer and scorpion, respectively. Notably, the absence of foreground stars in the photo enhances the visibility of intricate details. NASA has pointed out that some stars exhibit shadows, hinting at the potential presence of developing planets.
Describing the latest image, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted that it presents star formation as a masterpiece of impressionism. Over the past year, the Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most advanced observatory ever launched into space, has been capturing stunning cosmic photographs. The telescope, which cost $10 billion, shared its first images in July of last year, half a year after its launch from French Guiana.
Considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been orbiting Earth for 33 years, the Webb telescope operates from a more distant vantage point: one million miles (1.6 million kilometers) away as part of a collaborative effort between NASA and the European Space Agency.
Looking ahead, astronomers using the Webb telescope hope to witness the earliest stars and galaxies in the universe. They also aim to search for any signs of extraterrestrial life on planets beyond our solar system.
“We haven’t discovered any yet,” said Eric Smith, NASA program scientist. “But we’re only one year into the mission.”No tags for this post.