Good morning. It's January 25th, and today's photo is amazing and inspiring.
Courtesy of the James Webb Space Telescope, this image shows the N79 nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small nearby galaxy. (Can we call galaxies small?) This is a massive, extremely active star-forming region spanning more than 1,600 light-years. So what's the story with that bright spot in the middle of the picture? He's a bright young star.
“The distinct 'starburst' pattern surrounding this bright object is a series of diffraction spikes.” ESA explains. “All telescopes that use a mirror to collect light, as Webb does, have this type of artifact that arises from the design of the telescope. In Webb's case, the six largest star protrusions appear due to the hexagonal symmetry of Webb's 18 primary mirror segments. Such patterns are only observable around “Bright, compact objects, where all the light comes from the same place. Most galaxies, although they appear very small to our eyes, are much darker and more spread out than a single star, and therefore do not show this pattern.”
Webb is investigating this active region to help astronomers understand what star-forming regions might have looked like in the early universe.
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