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.

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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.

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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.

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TRAPPIST-1c Isn’t the Exo-Venus We Were Hoping For. But Don’t Blame the Star

A recent study accepted to The Astrophysical Journal uses computer models to investigate why the exoplanet, TRAPPIST-1c, could not possess a thick carbon dioxide (CO2) atmosphere despite it receiving the same amount of solar radiation from its parent star as the planet Venus receives from our Sun, with the latter having a very thick carbon dioxide atmosphere. This study comes after a June 2023 study published in Nature used data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to ascertain that TRAPPIST-1c does not possess a carbon dioxide atmosphere. Both studies come as the TRAPPIST-1 system, which is located approximately 41 light-years from Earth and orbits its star in just 2.4 days, has received a lot of attention from the scientific community in the last few years due to the number of confirmed exoplanets within the system and their potential for astrobiology purposes.

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Gaze Into the Heart of the Milky Way in This Latest JWST Image

James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) instrument reveals a 50 light-years-wide portion of the Milky Way’s dense center. An estimated 500,000 stars shine in this image of the Sagittarius C (Sgr C) region, along with some as-yet unidentified features. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, S. Crowe (UVA).

Thanks to its infrared capabilities, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) allows astronomers to peer through the gas and dust clogging the Milky Way’s center, revealing never-before-seen features. One of the biggest mysteries is the star forming region called Sagittarius C, located about 300 light-years from the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole. An estimated 500,000 stars are forming in this region that’s being blasted by radiation from the densely packed stars. How can they form in such an intense environment?

Right now, astronomers can’t explain it.

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An Epic Collaboration Between Hubble and JWST

This panchromatic view of galaxy cluster MACS0416 was created by combining infrared observations from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope with visible-light data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

In 2012, as part of the MAssive Cluster Survey (MACS), the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) discovered a pair of colliding galaxy clusters (MACS0416) that will eventually combine to form an even bigger cluster. Located about 4.3 billion light-years from Earth, the MACS0416 cluster contains multiple gravitational lenses that allow astronomers to look back in time and view galaxies as they appeared when the Universe was young. In a new collaboration that symbolizes the passing of the torch, the venerable Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) teamed up to conduct an extremely detailed study of MACS0416.

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Supermassive Black Holes Shut Down Star Formation During Cosmic Noon

Artist’s impression of a quasar. These all have supermassive black holes at their hearts. Credit: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva
Artist’s impression of a quasar. These all have supermassive black holes at their hearts. Credit: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva

Since it became operational almost two years ago, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has produced countless breathtaking images of the Universe and enabled fresh insights into how it evolved. In particular, the telescope’s instruments are optimized for studying the cosmological epoch known as Cosmic Dawn, ca. 50 million to one billion years after the Big Bang when the first stars, black holes, and galaxies in the Universe formed. However, astronomers are also getting a better look at the epoch that followed, Cosmic Noon, which lasted from 2 to 3 billion years after the Big Bang.

During this time, the first galaxies grew considerably, most stars in the Universe formed, and many galaxies with supermassive black holes (SMBHs) at their centers became incredibly luminous quasars. Scientists have been eager to get a better look at galaxies dated to this period so they can see how SMBHs affected star formation in young galaxies. Using near-infrared data obtained by Webb, an international team of astronomers made detailed observations of over 100 galaxies as they appeared 2 to 4 billion years after the Big Bang, coinciding with Cosmic Noon.

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JWST Confirms the Formation of Heavy Elements in a Kilonova

Image from JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument displaying GRB 230307A’s kilonova and its former home galaxy, the former of which was found to possess heavy elements. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, A. Levan (IMAPP, Warw), A. Pagan (STScI))

A recent study published in Nature investigates recent observations from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and ground-based telescopes of heavy elements within the ejected material of a recent gamma-ray burst (GRB), classified as GRB 230307A, that was likely produced by a kilonova with GRB 230307A being designated as the second-brightest GRB ever detected. The heavy element in question is the chemical element tellurium, which is classified as a metalloid on the periodic table. However, scientists also hypothesize that the element iodine, which is a requirement for most of life on the Earth and classified as a reactive nonmetal, could also exist within the kilonova’s explosion, with both elements residing side-by-side on the periodic table.

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A New Weather Feature was Hiding in JWST’s Picture of Jupiter

Image of Jupiter taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) in July 2022 displays striking features of the largest planet in the solar system in infrared light, with brightness indicating high altitudes. One of these features is a jet stream within the large bright band just above Jupiter’s equator, which was the focus of this study. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, R. Hueso (University of the Basque Country), I. de Pater (University of California, Berkeley), T. Fouchet (Observatory of Paris), L. Fletcher (University of Leicester), M. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), J. DePasquale (STScI))

In July 2022, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) used its NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) to capture stunning infrared images of the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. Within these striking images, scientists recently discovered a jet stream in the northern latitudes just over Jupiter’s equator and 20-35 kilometers (12-21 miles) above Jupiter’s cloud tops. This jet stream stretches approximately 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles) with speeds of 515 kilometers per hour (320 miles per hour), more than double the speed of a Category 5 hurricane on Earth.

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The Combination of Oxygen and Methane Could Reveal the Presence of Life on Another World

This artist’s impression shows a Super-Earth orbiting a Sun-like star. HD 85512 in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sail). This planet is one of sixteen super-Earths discovered by the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. This planet is about 3.6 times as massive as the Earth lis at the edge of the habitable zone around the star, where liquid water, and perhaps even life, could potentially exist. Credit: ESO

In searching for life in the Universe, a field known as astrobiology, scientists rely on Earth as a template for biological and evolutionary processes. This includes searching for Earth analogs, rocky planets that orbit within their parent star’s habitable zone (HZ) and have atmospheres composed of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. However, Earth’s atmosphere has evolved considerably over time from a toxic plume of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and traces of volcanic gas. Over time, the emergence of photosynthetic organisms caused a transition, leading to the atmosphere we see today.

The last 500 million years, known as the Phanerozoic Eon, have been particularly significant for the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere and terrestrial species. This period saw a significant rise in oxygen content and the emergence of animals, dinosaurs, and embryophyta (land plants). Unfortunately, the resulting transmission spectra are missing in our search for signs of life in exoplanet atmospheres. To address this gap, a team of Cornell researchers created a simulation of the atmosphere during the Phanerozoic Eon, which could have significant implications in the search for life on extrasolar planets.

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