An international research team has just revealed the first images of the Orion Nebula, the richest and closest nursery of stars to the Solar System, captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. They demonstrate once again the exceptional performance of this instrument. Co-directed by scientists from CNRS, Université Paris-Saclay and University of Western Ontario (Canada), these observations also involved astronomers from Observatoire de Paris-PSL supported by CNES.
Dive into the birthplace of the stars… That’s what researchers have just achieved by capturing new images with the James Webb Space Telescope: the most detailed and sharpest images ever taken of the inner region of the Orion Nebula. These observations were made possible and confirmed by Webb’s revolutionary capabilities.
Located in the constellation of Orion, 1350 light-years from Earth, the Orion Nebula is an area rich in material where many stars are formed. It would be an environment similar to the one where our system was born more than 4.5 billion years ago: studying it allows us to better understand the conditions prevailing at that time.
The heart of star nurseries, like the Orion Nebula, is hidden by large amounts of dust. It is impossible to observe it in visible light with telescopes like Hubble. The James Webb Space Telescope observes the infrared light of the cosmos, and thus allows us to see through these layers of dust. It finally lifts the veil on what is going on in the depths of the nebula.
First of all, it reveals many spectacular structures, up to scales of about 40 AU (1) . Among them, a number of dense filaments of matter, which could favor the birth of a new generation of stars, as well as stellar systems in formation have been observed. The latter consist of a central protostar surrounded by a disk of dust and gas inside which planets are forming.
The Orion Nebula is also home to a cluster of massive young stars, called the Trapezium Cluster, which emits intense ultraviolet radiation, capable of shaping clouds of dust and gas. Understanding how this phenomenon impacts the environment is a key question for studying the formation of stellar systems like our own Solar System.
These results are the product of one of James Webb’s priority observing programs, which involved about 100 scientists in 18 countries (2) and was co-led by scientists from CNRS, Université Paris-Saclay and the University of Western Ontario (located in London, Canada). These programs were selected in an international call for proposals from the James Webb Space Telescope.
The research team is working to analyze the data collected about the Orion Nebula, and promises new discoveries about the early phases of the formation of stellar and planetary systems.
- For Astronomical Unit. One AU is approximately the distance between the Earth and the Sun, 10 AU is the distance between Saturn and the Sun.
- In France, this research involved scientists from the Institut de recherche en astrophysique et planétologie (CNRS/CNES/UT3 Paul Sabatier), Institut d’astrophysique spatiale (CNRS/Université Paris-Saclay), Laboratoire d’études du rayonnement et de la matière en astrophysique et atmosphères (Observatoire de Paris – PSL/CNRS/Sorbonne Université/Université de Cergy-Pontoise), Institut des sciences moléculaires d’Orsay (CNRS/Université Paris-Saclay), Institut de planétologie et d’astrophysique de Grenoble (CNRS/UGA), Laboratoire de physique de l’École normale supérieure (CNRS/ENS-PSL/Sorbonne Université/Université Paris Cité), Laboratoire de physique des deux infinis Irène Joliot-Curie (CNRS/Université Paris Saclay), Institut de physique de Rennes(CNRS/Université de Rennes 1), Institut d’astrophysique de Paris (CNRS/Sorbonne Université), laboratoire Astrophysique, instrumentation, modélisation (CNRS/CEA/Université Paris Cité), Institut des sciences moléculaires (CNRS/Bordeaux INP/Université de Bordeaux), Laboratoire de chimie et physique quantiques (CNRS/UT3 Paul Sabatier).
- Other Images : The inner Orion nebula seen with the JWST
- Press Review :
- Télescope James Webb : premières images de la nébuleuse d’Orion (CNES)
- Le télescope James-Webb saisit la pouponnière d’étoiles d’Orion (Le Monde)
- « Les images du James Webb Space Telescope sont extraordinaires » (CNRS Le Journal)
- JWST has caught hot stars destroying gas and dust in the Orion Nebula (New Scientist)
- Western researchers among first to capture James Webb Space Telescope images (Western News)
- Olivier Berné, firstname.lastname@example.org