Thanks to its high-resolution, near-infrared camera, the James Webb Space Telescope has captured a new image of two actively forming nearby stars.
To see the stars in the image above, trace those bright pink and red diffraction spikes to the center. The stars are within the bright orange-and-white splotch in the middle of the image.
In previous views of this star system, known as Herbig-Haro 46/47, not as much detail was visible. That’s because visible light allows the stars to hide behind gauzy layers of space dust and gas. Near-infrared light does not.
The image also clearly shows striking, fiery orange ejections coming from the center — material ejected from the forming stars as they repeatedly inject and eject the gas material that surrounds them over thousands of years, according to NASA.
Herbig-Haro 46/47 is very young — just a few thousand years old — and relatively nearby, just 1,470 light-years away. Those factors make it an appealing target of study.
Researchers looking at Herbig-Haro could use it to understand how much mass stars collect and absorb as they form, which could allow them to better understand how our own sun and solar system formed, NASA said.
A team based in Baltimore’s Space Telescope Science Institute works to operate the telescope and process the data from it, turning that data into the stunning images we see. The telescope itself, which is larger and more powerful than the famous Hubble Space Telescope, was launched from French Guinea in 2021 and orbits the sun a million miles from Earth.
According to the institute, data from the telescope has resulted in “hundreds of scientific papers answering longstanding questions and raising new ones to address with Webb” in its first year of operation.