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James Webb Space Telescope hits 1-year anniversary and celebrates with a close-up image of the birth of Sun-like stars in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex.

Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, the closest star-forming region to Earth

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has completed its first year of science operations, delivering on its promise to reveal the universe in unprecedented detail. In celebration of this milestone, NASA has released an image of a small star-forming region in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, captured by the telescope. This image showcases the telescope’s ability to observe cosmic phenomena ranging from our own solar system to distant galaxies near the beginning of time.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, emphasized the importance of the James Webb Space Telescope and its ability to photograph such distinct objects.

“In just one year, the James Webb Space Telescope has transformed humanity’s view of the cosmos, peering into dust clouds and seeing light from faraway corners of the universe for the very first time. Every new image is a new discovery, empowering scientists around the globe to ask and answer questions they once could never dream of. Webb is an investment in American innovation but also a scientific feat made possible with NASA’s international partners that share a can-do spirit to push the boundaries of what is known to be possible. Thousands of engineers, scientists, and leaders poured their life’s passion into this mission, and their efforts will continue to improve our understanding of the origins of the universe – and our place in it.”

The new Webb image released today features the nearest star-forming region to us. Its proximity at 390 light-years allows for a highly detailed close-up, with no foreground stars in the intervening space.

Webb’s image shows a group of about 50 young stars, all similar in size to the Sun or smaller. The darkest areas are the thickest and contain dust that surrounds stars still forming. Large jets of molecular hydrogen, shown in red, are the most prominent feature in the image. They appear horizontally across the upper third and vertically on the right. These jets happen when a star breaks through its layer of cosmic dust, shooting out two jets in opposite directions like a newborn stretching its arms. The star S1 stands out because it has cleared a glowing space in the lower half of the image. It is the only star in the image that is much bigger than the Sun.

Klaus Pontoppidan, who served as Webb project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, since before the telescope’s launch and through the first year of operations, said:

“Webb’s image of Rho Ophiuchi allows us to witness a very brief period in the stellar lifecycle with new clarity. Our own Sun experienced a phase like this, long ago, and now we have the technology to see the beginning of another star’s story.”

Some stars in the image display tell-tale shadows indicating protoplanetary disks – potential future planetary systems in the making. Discover more details in the image video tour, or explore yourself in the zoomable image.

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

Image Credits

In-Article Image Credits

Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, the closest star-forming region to Earth via James Webb Space Telescope with usage type - Public Domain. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Klaus Pontoppidan (STScI)

Featured Image Credit

Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, the closest star-forming region to Earth via James Webb Space Telescope with usage type - Public Domain. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Klaus Pontoppidan (STScI)

 

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