Webb Directly Images Two Planets Orbiting White Dwarfs

Artist's rendition of a white dwarf from the surface of an orbiting exoplanet. Astronomers have found two giant planet candidates orbiting two white dwarfs. More proof that giant planets can surve their stars' red giant phases. Image Credit: Madden/Cornell University

In several billion years, our Sun will become a white dwarf. What will happen to Jupiter and Saturn when the Sun transitions to become a stellar remnant? Life could go on, though the giant planets will likely drift further away from the Sun.

Continue reading “Webb Directly Images Two Planets Orbiting White Dwarfs”

Feast Your Eyes on 19 Face-On Spiral Galaxies Seen by Webb

These Webb images are part of a large, long-standing project, the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) program, which is supported by more than 150 astronomers worldwide. Before Webb took these images, PHANGS was already brimming with data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Telescope’s Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer, and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, including observations in ultraviolet, visible, and radio light. Webb’s near- and mid-infrared contributions have provided several new puzzle pieces. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA

If you’re fascinated by Nature, these images of spiral galaxies won’t help you escape your fascination.

These images show incredible detail in 19 spirals, imaged face-on by the JWST. The galactic arms with their multitudes of stars are lit up in infrared light, as are the dense galactic cores, where supermassive black holes reside.

Continue reading “Feast Your Eyes on 19 Face-On Spiral Galaxies Seen by Webb”

New Webb Image of a Massive Star Forming Complex

This image from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope features an H II region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/M. Meixner

The James Webb Space Telescope, a collaborative effort between NASA, the ESA, and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), has revealed some stunning new images of the Universe. These images have not only been the clearest and most details views of the cosmos; they’ve also led to new insight into cosmological phenomena. The latest image, acquired by Webb‘s Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), is of the star-forming nebula N79, located about 160,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). The image features a bright young star and the nebula’s glowing clouds of dust and gas from which new stars form.

Continue reading “New Webb Image of a Massive Star Forming Complex”

The JWST Solves the Mystery of Ancient Light

This image shows the galaxy EGSY8p7, a bright galaxy in the early Universe where light emission is seen from, among other things, excited hydrogen atoms — Lyman-alpha emission. The galaxy was identified in a field of young galaxies studied by Webb in the CEERS survey. In the bottom two panels, Webb’s high sensitivity picks out this distant galaxy along with its two companion galaxies, where previous observations saw only one larger galaxy in its place. This discovery of a cluster of interacting galaxies sheds light on the mystery of why the hydrogen emission from EGSY8p7, shrouded in neutral gas formed after the Big Bang, should be visible at all. Image Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, S. Finkelstein (UT Austin), M. Bagley (UT Austin), R. Larson (UT Austin), A. Pagan (STScI), C. Witten, M. Zamani (ESA/Webb)

The very early Universe was a dark place. It was packed with light-blocking hydrogen and not much else. Only when the first stars switched on and began illuminating their surroundings with UV radiation did light begin its reign. That occurred during the Epoch of Reionization.

But before the Universe became well-lit, a specific and mysterious type of light pierced the darkness: Lyman-alpha emissions.

Continue reading “The JWST Solves the Mystery of Ancient Light”

A Solo Brown Dwarf Found With Auroras

This artist concept portrays the brown dwarf W1935, which is located 47 light-years from Earth. Astronomers using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope found infrared emission from methane coming from W1935, generating an aurora, a very unexpected discovery. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Leah Hustak (STScI)

Astronomers have used JWST to find a brown dwarf with polar auroras like the Earth, or Jupiter. This is surprising because the brown dwarf, dubbed W1935, is a free-floating object, meaning it isn’t part of another star system. Therefore, there’s no solar wind available to generate any Northern Lights. Instead, the auroras are seemingly generated from methane emissions in the planet’s atmosphere, interacting with the interstellar plasma. Another theory is that it perhaps has an active but unseen moon contributing to the emissions.

Continue reading “A Solo Brown Dwarf Found With Auroras”

JWST and Chandra Team Up for a Stunning View of Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A

This image of Cassiopeia A comes from a combination of data from the Chandra X-ray telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI; IR: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI/Milisavljevic et al., NASA/JPL/CalTech; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/J. Schmidt and K. Arcand

NASA’s long-lived Chandra X-ray Observatory teamed up with JWST for the first time, producing this incredibly detailed image of the famous supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. JWST first looked at the remnant in April 2023, and noticed an unusual debris structure from the destroyed star, dubbed the “Green Monster.” The combined view has helped astronomers better understand what this unusual structure is, plus it uncovered new details about the explosion that created Cas A.

Continue reading “JWST and Chandra Team Up for a Stunning View of Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A”

GJ 367b is Another Dead World Orbiting a Red Dwarf

This artist's concept illustrates a young, red dwarf star surrounded by three planets. There's growing evidence that red dwarfs place serious limits on exoplanet habitability. Image Credit: By NASA/JPL-Caltech - NASA Image of the Day, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17104843

Red dwarf exoplanet habitability is a hot topic in space science. These small dim stars host lots of exoplanets, including small rocky ones the size of Earth. But the little stars emit extremely powerful flares that can damage and strip away atmospheres.

If we’re ever going to understand red dwarf habitability, we need to understand the atmospheres of the exoplanets that orbit them.

Continue reading “GJ 367b is Another Dead World Orbiting a Red Dwarf”

Webb Finds Icy Complex Organic Molecules Around Protostars: Ethanol, Methane, Formaldehyde, Formic Acid and Much More

Astronomers have used JWST to study the environments around 30 young protostars and found a vast collection of icy organic molecules. A recent survey identified methane, sulfur dioxide, ethanol, formaldehyde, formic acid, and many more. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/STScI

In the quest to understand how and where life might arise in the galaxy, astronomers search for its building blocks. Complex Organic Molecules (COMs) are some of those blocks, and they include things like formaldehyde and acetic acid, among many others. The JWST has found some of these COMs around young protostars. What does this tell astronomers?

Continue reading “Webb Finds Icy Complex Organic Molecules Around Protostars: Ethanol, Methane, Formaldehyde, Formic Acid and Much More”

JWST Delivers A Fantastic New Image Of Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A

Like a shiny, round ornament ready to be placed in the perfect spot on a holiday tree, supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A) gleams in a new image from the NASA/CSA/ESA James Webb Space Telescope. Image Credit: NASA/CSA/ESA

Astronomy is all about light. Sensing the tiniest amounts of it, filtering it, splitting it into its component wavelengths, and making sense of it, especially from objects a great distance away. The James Webb Space Telescope is especially adept at this, as this new image of supernova remnant (SNR) Cassiopeia A exemplifies so well.

Continue reading “JWST Delivers A Fantastic New Image Of Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A”

Why Was it Tricky to Know the Distances to Galaxies JWST Was Seeing?

Obtaining accurate redshift measurements is a challenge, even with telescopes like Webb. Credit: NASA

One of the chief objectives of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is to study the formation and evolution of the earliest galaxies in the Universe, which emerged more than 13 billion years ago. To this end, scientists must identify galaxies from different cosmological epochs to explore how their properties have changed over time. This, in turn, requires precise dating techniques so astronomers are able to determine when (in the history of the Universe) an observed galaxy existed. The key is to measure the object’s redshift, which indicates how long its light has been traveling through space.

This is the purpose of the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Survey (CEERS), a collaborative research group that analyzes Webb data to learn more about galactic evolution. These galaxies are known as “high-redshift,” meaning that their light emissions are redshifted all the way into the infrared spectrum. Galaxies that existed ca. 13 billion years ago can only be observed in the near-infrared spectrum, which is now possible thanks to Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam). Even so, obtaining accurate redshift measurements from such distant galaxies is a very tricky, and requires advanced techniques.

Continue reading “Why Was it Tricky to Know the Distances to Galaxies JWST Was Seeing?”