The powerful James Webb Space Telescope is a mighty technological tool. Astrophysicists first conceived it over 20 years ago, and after many twists and turns, it was launched on December 2st, 2021. Now it’s in a halo orbit at the Sun-Earth L2 point, where it will hopefully continue operating for 20 years.
It’s only been a few months since its first images were released, and it’s already making progress in answering some of the Universe’s most compelling questions. In a newly-released image, the JWST peered deep inside massive clouds of gas and dust to watch young stars come to life in their stellar cocoons.
First impression after seeing this new image of NGC 3324? It’s Alfred Hitchcock, bulbous nose and all (see image below for comparison). The right edge of the wall of gas and dust in this star-forming region really bears a strong resemblance to the famous profile of the British film director and producer, notorious for his thriller movies from the 1940’s through the 1970’s.
NGC 3324 is located in the southern constellation of Carina, roughly 7500 light-years from Earth. It is on the northern outskirts of the chaotic environment of the Carina Nebula. All the gas and dust here fueled a burst of star birth several millions of years ago and led to the creation of several hefty and very hot stars that are prominent in the new picture.
A nickname for the NGC 3324 region is the ‘Gabriela Mistral Nebula,’ after the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet but I think I’ll start a petition to call it the Hitchcock Nebula. Hitchcock liked to make cameo appearances in his own movies, and perhaps he is making a pareidoliaic guest appearance here.
The new image of NGC 3324 was taken with the Wide Field Imager on the the European Southern Observatory’s 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. Read more about it on the ESO website.