NASA Releases Stunning Image of Star Birth

Agency is celebrating a year of images from the James Webb Space Telescope
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 13, 2023 5:07 AM CDT
Updated Jul 13, 2023 6:21 AM CDT
NASA Releases Stunning Image of Star Birth
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope displays a star birth like it’s never been seen before.   (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Klaus Pon via AP)

The Webb Space Telescope is marking one year of cosmic photographs with one of its best yet: the dramatic close-up of dozens of stars at the moment of birth. NASA unveiled the latest snapshot Wednesday, revealing 50 baby stars in a cloud complex 390 light-years away. A light-year is nearly 6 trillion miles. The region is relatively small and quiet yet full of illuminated gases, jets of hydrogen, and even dense cocoons of dust with the delicate beginnings of even more stars. All of the young stars appear to be no bigger than our sun. Scientists said the breathtaking shot provides the best clarity yet of this brief phase of a star's life.

This cloud complex, known as Rho Ophiuchi, is the closest star-forming region to Earth and is found in the sky near the border of the constellations Ophiuchus and Scorpius, the serpent-bearer and scorpion. With no stars in the foreground of the photo, NASA noted, the details stand out all the more. Some of the stars display shadows indicating possible planets in the making, according to NASA. It "presents star birth as an impressionistic masterpiece," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a tweet. "Our own Sun experienced a phase like this, long ago, and now we have the technology to see the beginning of another's star's story," said project scientist Klaus Pontoppidan.

"It's like a glimpse of what our own system would have looked like billions of years ago when it was forming," NASA program scientist Eric Smith told the AP. Smith pointed out that the starlight visible in the image actually left there 390 years ago. On Earth in 1633, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei went on trial in Rome for saying that the Earth revolved around the sun. The Vatican in 1992 acknowledged Galileo was wronged.

(More James Webb Space Telescope stories.)

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