The Webb Space Telescope discovers unexplained structures at the heart of the Milky Way

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured a detailed image of the Sagittarius C region near the heart of the Milky Way, revealing a dense star-forming region containing many protostars and dark infrared clouds. This observation provides new perspectives on star formation and the dynamics of the center of our galaxy. (Artist’s concept, see web image below.)

The play of darkness and light is on display in the crowded heart of our galaxy like never before.

A bright field of gas sweeps across the edge of a dense, dark cloud as young stars emerge to take their place in the universe. They join an estimated 500,000 other stars on the scene, of different ages, sizes and colours. It’s our focus milky way Galactic, city center at rush hour, making the quiet corner of our solar system a frontier outpost by comparison. Discover new features – and secrets – NASA‘s James Webb Space Telescope With its unprecedented infrared view of the chaotic region, this image has revealed what it means for astronomy.

Sagittarius C (Webb NIRCam image)

The full view of the James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (near infrared camera) instrument reveals a 50-light-year-wide section of the Milky Way’s dense center. An estimated 500,000 stars shine in this image of Sagittarius C (Sgr C), as well as some as-yet-unidentified features.
A broad region of ionized hydrogen, shown in sky blue, wraps around a dark infrared cloud, which is so dense that it blocks light from distant stars behind it. The interesting needle-like structures in ionized hydrogen emission lack any uniform direction. The researchers noted the astonishing extent of the ionized region, covering about 25 light-years.
Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Samuel Crowe (UVA)

The Webb Space Telescope reveals new features at the heart of the Milky Way

The latest image taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows part of our galaxy’s dense center in unprecedented detail, including never-before-seen features that astronomers have yet to explain. The star-forming region, called Sagittarius C (Sgr C), lies about 300 light-years from the Milky Way’s massive central cluster. Black holeSagittarius A*.

Unprecedented details

“There’s never been any infrared data in this region at the level of resolution and sensitivity that we get with Webb, so we’re seeing a lot of features here for the first time,” said lead researcher on the observing team, Samuel Crowe, an undergraduate at UCLA. University of Virginia at Charlottesville. “Webb reveals an incredible amount of detail, allowing us to study star formation in this type of environment in a way that was not possible before.”

Professor Jonathan Tan, one of Crow’s advisors at the University of Virginia, added: “The galactic center is the most extreme environment in our Milky Way Galaxy, where current theories about star formation can be put to the most stringent test.”

Sagittarius C (Webb NIRCam annotated image)

Rough outlines help identify features in the Sagittarius C (Sgr C) region. Astronomers study data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to understand the relationship between these features, as well as other influences in the galaxy’s chaotic center. Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Samuel Crowe (UVA)

Protostars and infrared dark clouds

Among the estimated 500,000 stars in the image, there is a group of protostars — stars that are still forming and gaining mass — producing jets that glow like fire in the middle of the sky. Dark infrared cloud. At the heart of this young cluster is a previously known massive protostar with a mass more than 30 times the mass of our Sun. The cloud from which the protostars emerge is so dense that light from the stars behind it cannot reach the Webb, making it appear less crowded when in fact it is one of the densest areas in the image. Smaller, dark red clouds are scattered throughout the image, looking like holes in the star field. This is where the stars of the future are formed.

New discoveries with NIRCam

Webb’s NIRCam (near infrared camera) instrument also captured widespread emission from ionized hydrogen surrounding the underside of the dark cloud, shown in cyan in the image. Crowe says this is usually the result of energetic photons emitted by young, massive stars, but the wide range of the region shown by Webb is a surprise worthy of further investigation. Another feature of the region that Crowe plans to examine further are the needle-like structures in ionized hydrogen, which appear randomly oriented in many directions.

Sagittarius C (Webb NIRCam compass image)

This image of Sagittarius C (Sgr), taken by the Webb Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), shows the compass arrows, scale bar, and color key for reference.
The north and east compass arrows show the direction of the image in the sky. Notice that the relationship between north and east in the sky (as seen from below) is inverted relative to the directional arrows on the Earth’s map (as seen from above).
The scale bar is stated in light years, which is the distance light travels in one Earth year. (It takes three years for light to travel a distance equal to the length of the scale bar.) One light-year is equal to about 5.88 trillion miles or 9.46 trillion kilometers. The field of view shown in this image is about 50 light-years long.
This image shows invisible wavelengths of near-infrared light translated into the colors of visible light. The color key shows which NIRCam filters were used when collecting the light. The color of each filter name is the color of visible light used to represent the infrared light passing through that filter.
Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Samuel Crowe (UVA)

Investigate the center of the galaxy

“The center of the galaxy is a crowded, turbulent place. There are magnetized and turbulent gas clouds that form stars, which then affect the surrounding gas with their flowing winds, jets and radiation,” said Rubén Fedriani, a co-researcher on the project at the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia in Spain. “We have a huge amount of data about this extreme environment, and we’re just starting to dig into it.”

Galactic Center Studies

At about 25,000 light-years from Earth, the galactic center is close enough to study individual stars using the Webb telescope, allowing astronomers to gather unprecedented information about how stars form, and how this process may depend on the cosmic environment, especially compared to regions The other. Galaxy. For example, do more massive stars form in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, compared to the edges of its spiral arms?

“The image Webb took is amazing, and the science we will get from it is even better,” Crowe said. “Massive stars are factories that produce heavy elements in their nuclear cores, so understanding them better is like knowing the origin story of much of the universe.”

About the James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s leading space science observatory. It leads investigations into our solar system, exploring distant worlds around other stars, and exploring the mysterious structures and origins of our universe. WEB is an international program led by NASA in cooperation with NASA European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.

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