The Great Orion Nebula (classified by Messier M42) is the closest to us, 1,344 light-years away, a star-forming region (stellar nursery) and the brightest propagating nebula in the sky. It is easily visible to the naked eye even from the outskirts of large cities. For this reason, it is also a very popular object observed by fans of the night sky.
Many details of the most famous nebula in the constellation Orion are shown by small amateur telescopes. In slightly larger images, the image delights even the most experienced sky-watcher. The M42 looks better in pictures. Scientists have now demonstrated results that can be achieved with the James Webb Space Telescope.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Data Reduction and Analysis: PDRs4All ERS Team; S. Fuenmayor graphic processing / https://pdrs4all.org/
The new image from the Webb Telescope is impressive in its details
a picture of her result Webb’s team collaborated with researchers from the University of Western Ontario in Canada and shows a small portion of the interior of the Orion Nebula. They were recorded in the near infrared using Webb’s NIRCam instrument (a combination of several frames made using different filters). The photo may not be the most stunning image of this object, but it will surprise you with the sheer amount of detail visible in the middle of the M42.
In the center of the image is a strongly scratched longitudinal dust cloud illuminated by the light of nearby stars. The researchers named it the Orion Bar. In the lower right corner, you can even see tiny ripples in the cloud’s structure, which is largely made up of hydrogen. Two bright stars also appear just below Orion’s bar. The first (θ2 Orionis A) is visible to the naked eye under a very dark sky. The second star is very small and is located inside the so-called globe, a dark nebula that partially blocks its light.
The interior of the Great Nebula in Orion as seen from the Webb Telescope Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, Data Reduction and Analysis: PDRs4All ERS Team; Graphic processing by S. Fuenmayor & O. Berné
Above the strip, we have huge structures of dust and Gas Formation of the interior of the M42 nebula. In the upper right corner of the frame, the researchers found a very young star still surrounded by a protoplanetary disk (planets are forming there). To show the amount of magnification and the level of detail we are dealing with, the box shows the approximate size of Neptune’s orbit. It is the farthest planet in the solar system, orbiting around the sun about 30 times farther than Earth.
Web or Hubble? The difference is huge
Finally, scientists were also inclined to compare the image of the same part of the Great Nebula in Orion that you just took. telescope James Webb with an image previously acquired with the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s hard not to admit that the details of Webb’s image are quite apart from the image obtained from the previous Hubble.
Comparing images from Webb and Hubble – Great Nebula in Orion Image credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, PDRs4All ERS Team; Image processing by Oliver Bernier. HST image credit: NASA/STScI/Rice Univ./C.O’Dell et al.
The Webb telescope monitors infrared radiation (light penetrates more easily through clouds of gas and dust), and therefore better extracts starlight. Light from hot ionized gas dominates the image from the new observatory, further highlighting the presence of cooler particulate matter that forms the so-called Orion ribbon.
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