James Webb captures the Tarantula Nebula 161,000 light-years away

The new James Webb image reveals the star-forming zone known as the Tarantula Nebula .

The James Webb Space Telescope has revealed a stunning new image captured with its data on the so-called Tarantula Nebula .

At more than 161,000 light-years from Earth, this region is one of the largest star-forming regions in the universe.

Details like we’ve never seen them

Nicknamed the Tarantula Nebula for the appearance of its dusty filaments in earlier telescopic images, this nebula has long been a favorite of astronomers studying star formation.

In his photograph produced by NASA , the ESA and the CSA, James Webb reveals distant galaxies in the background, as well as the detailed structure of the star and its composition of gas and dust.

The Tarantula Nebula , located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, is home to the hottest and most massive stars known to date.

Observed with Webb’s near-infrared camera (NIRCam, for its acronym in English), “the region resembles the burrows of certain tarantulas, lined with their silk,” says the space agency.

“The cavity of the nebula centered in the NIRCam image has been carved by searing radiation from a cluster of young massive stars, which glow pale blue in this image,” he continues. “Only the denser surrounding areas of the nebula resist erosion by the powerful stellar winds from these stars, forming pillars that appear to point into the cluster. These pillars contain forming protostars, which will eventually emerge from their dusty cocoons and take their turn to shape the nebula.”

The noon of the universe

One reason the Tarantula Nebula is interesting to astronomers is that it has a kind of chemical composition similar to the giant star-forming regions seen at “cosmic noon” in the universe, when the cosmos had only a few stars. billions of years old and star formation was at its peak.

The star-forming regions in our Milky Way galaxy don’t produce stars at the same frenetic rate as the Tarantula Nebula and have a different chemical composition. This makes the Tarantula the closest example (that is, the easiest to see in detail) of what was happening in the universe as it reached its bright midday.

As the space agency comments, James Webb will provide astronomers with the opportunity to compare and contrast observations of star formation in the Tarantula Nebula made by this telescope with deep observations of distant galaxies from the actual era of cosmic noon.