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Webb celebrates the first year of science operations with a fresh look

Webb celebrates the first year of science operations with a fresh look

This first anniversary image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows star birth as never before, filled with detailed, impressionistic-looking textures. The subject is the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, the closest star-forming region to Earth. This is a relatively small and quiet stellar nursery, but we can’t imagine it from Webb’s chaotic close-up. Jets from young stars criss-cross the image, pummeling surrounding interstellar gas and illuminating molecular hydrogen shown in red. Some stars show telltale shadows from stellar disks, which contain components of future planetary systems.
Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STSc, and K. Pontoppidan (STScI). Image processing: A. Pagan (STScI)
Download the full-resolution image from the Space Telescope Science Institute’s website.

Read this story in Spanish here.

From the solar system’s cosmic backyard to distant galaxies near the dawn of time, in its first year of science operations, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has delivered on its promise of revealing the universe like never before. To celebrate the completion of a successful first year, NASA has released a Webb image of a young star-forming region in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex.

“In just one year, the James Webb Space Telescope has changed humanity’s view of the universe, looking inside clouds of dust and seeing light from far corners of the universe for the first time. Every new image is a new discovery, allowing scientists around the world to ask and answer questions They had never dreamed of it before,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Webb is an investment in American innovation, but also a scientific achievement made possible with international NASA partners who share our spirit of ‘will-can’ to push the boundaries of what we know is possible. Thousands of engineers, scientists, and leaders have poured their lives’ passion into this mission, and their efforts will continue to advance our understanding of the origins of The universe and our place in it.

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A new Webb image released today shows our closest star-forming region. Its close proximity, at 390 light-years away, allows for a very detailed close-up, with no stars in the foreground in the intervening space.

“On its first anniversary, the James Webb Space Telescope has truly delivered on its promise to reveal the universe, giving humanity a great treasure trove of images and science that will last for decades,” said Nicola Fox, Associate Director of the Science Mission Directorate. at NASA in Washington. “An engineering marvel built by the world’s leading scientists and engineers, Webb has given us a more complex understanding of the galaxies, stars and atmospheres of planets outside our solar system than ever before, laying the foundation for NASA to lead the world in an era of scientific discovery and the search for habitable worlds.”

Webb’s image shows a region containing about 50 young stars, all of similar mass to the Sun, or smaller. The darker regions are the most dense, where the dense dust envelopes form the protostars. Huge dipole jets of molecular hydrogen, depicted in red, dominate the image, appearing horizontally across the upper third and vertically across the right. These jets occur when a star first bursts through its newborn envelope of cosmic dust, shooting a pair of opposing jets into space like a newborn extending its arms to the world for the first time. By contrast, the star of S1 has carved out a glowing dust cavern in the lower half of the image. It is the only star in the image that is much larger than the Sun.

A web image of Rho Ophiuchi allows us to see with new clarity a very short period in the life cycle of stars. said Klaus Pontopidan, who served as Webb’s project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, in Baltimore, Maryland, before the telescope’s launch and during its first year of operation.

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Some of the stars in the image show telltale shadows that indicate protoplanetary disks: possible future planetary systems in the making.

A whole year in the whole sky

Since his first deep-field photo, revealed by US President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Nelson live from the White House, Webb has kept his promise to show us more of the universe than ever before. However, Webb has revealed more than just distant galaxies in the early universe.

“The breadth of scientific exploration that Webb is capable of is really evident now, when we have a full year of data from all the sky targets,” said Eric Smith, associate director for research in HQ’s Astrophysics Division. Program scientist. “Webb’s first year of science operations not only taught us new things about our universe, but revealed that the telescope’s capabilities are greater than we expected, which means that future discoveries will be even more extraordinary.” The global astronomical community has spent the past year enthusiastically analyzing Webb’s raw public data and gaining insight into how to handle it.

Besides the impressive infrared images, what really piqued the scientists’ interest were the sharp web spectra — the detailed information that can be extracted from the light with the spectroscopic tools in this telescope. Webb’s spectra confirmed the distance to some of the most distant galaxies ever observed, and discovered the oldest and most distant supermassive black holes. These spectra determined the composition of planets’ atmospheres (or lack thereof) in more detail than ever before, and for the first time refined the possible types of atmospheres that could exist on rocky exoplanets. They also revealed the chemical composition of stellar nurseries and protoplanetary disks, detecting water, carbon-containing organic molecules, and other features. Webb’s observations have already resulted in hundreds of scientific papers that answer longstanding questions and raise new ones to address with this observatory.

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The breadth of Webb’s science mission is also evident in his observations of the region of space we know best: the solar system. Faint rings of gas giants appear in the dark, punctuated by moons, while Webb shows distant galaxies in the background. By comparing discoveries of water and other molecules in our solar system to those in the disks of much more recent planetary systems, Webb is helping develop clues about our origins: how Earth became the perfect home for life as we know it.

“With a year of scientific exploration under our belt, we know just how powerful this telescope is, and we’ve provided a full year’s worth of data and amazing discoveries,” said Jane Rigby, Webb’s principal scientist on Goddard’s space flight. Center at NASA. “We’ve selected an ambitious set of observations for the second year, which build on everything we’ve learned so far. Webb’s science mission is just getting started and there’s more to come.”

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb solves mysteries of our solar system, sees beyond distant worlds around other stars, and explores the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program run by NASA with its partners: ESA (European Space Agency) and Canadian Space Agency (CSA).