NASA marks Webb Space Telescope’s one year of discovery with close-up of 50 baby stars

With a spectacular new image of Sun-like stars being born, NASA marked one year of discovery by the James Webb Space Telescope on Wednesday.

The Webb Space Telescope showed the latest snapshot revealing 50 baby stars in a cloud complex 390 light-years away, NASA said.

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.

Webb — the largest and most powerful astronomical observatory ever launched into space — has been churning out cosmic beauty shots for the past year. The first pictures from the $10 billion infrared telescope were unveiled last July, six months after its liftoff from French Guiana.

“Prepare to be awestruck!” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a tweet, noting that the image “presents star birth as an impressionistic masterpiece.”

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.

“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 Associated Press.

“I like to remind people that when this light left, it was roughly 1633. … People were putting Galileo on trial for believing that the Earth goes around the sun, and here we are seeing separate suns and planets forming today,” Smith said.

According to NASA, 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.

Webb is considered as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, orbiting Earth for 33 years.

(With inputs from AP)

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Updated: 12 Jul 2023, 08:03 PM IST

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