By now, perhaps, we should be getting used to unreal images of the cosmos made with the James Webb Space Telescope. But a year after NASA released the cosmic observatory’s first imagery, the space agency has dropped yet another breathtaking snapshot of our universe.
Wednesday’s image was Rho Ophiuchi, the closest nursery of infant stars in our cosmic backyard. Located a mere 390 light years away from Earth, this cloud complex is chock-full of stellar goodness.
Around 50 stars with masses comparable to our sun are sprinkled in white: some fully formed and shining bright, others still hidden behind dark, dense regions of interstellar dust. (Zoom in closer and you’ll even find a faint galaxy or two.)
Near the center of the image is a mature star called S1, its starlight illuminating the wispy yellow nebula around it. Toward the upper right are streaming red jets of molecular hydrogen, material that gets spewed out on either side of forming protostars. Black shadows near these regions are accretion disks of swirling gas and dust — some of which could be in the process of creating planetary systems. [Continue reading…]