Eerie picture from Webb uncovers dusty structure in Pillars of Creation

The mid-infrared image of the Pillars of Creation from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope strikes an ominous note. Since stars normally do not emit much mid-infrared light, the thousands of stars that are present in this region seem to vanish, and layers of gas and dust that seem to go on forever take center stage. Dust is a key component in star formation, hence the Webb Mid-Infrared Instrument's (MIRI) detection of dust is a crucial discovery.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

October 28, 2022

This is not a ghostly landscape of ancient tombs. These fingers with soot on them are also not reaching out. Stars that have been slowly growing over many centuries are enshrouded by these pillars, which are awash in gas and dust. Mid-infrared images of the Pillars of Creation taken by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope give us a fresh perspective on a well-known area.

Why does the image from Webb's Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) have such a gloomy, chilly atmosphere created by mid-infrared light? The area is covered in astral dust. And although while mid-infrared light excels at revealing the location of dust, stars cannot be seen at these wavelengths due to their lack of brightness. Instead, the activity inside these enormous, leaden-hued pillars of gas and dust gleams at their edges.

In this area, tens of thousands of stars have created. Examining a recent Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) photograph from Webb demonstrates this. The majority of the stars appear to be absent from MIRI's perspective. Why? There is no longer enough dust surrounding many freshly born stars for them to be seen in mid-infrared light. MIRI, on the other hand, studies young stars that have not yet shed their dusty "cloaks." These are the red spheres that may be seen along the pillars' edges. The blue stars that are scattered throughout the landscape, in comparison, are aging and have largely lost their covering of gas and dust.

Mid-infrared light is particularly good in closely scrutinizing gas and dust. This is also plainly seen in the background. The deepest grays are where the dust is densest. The dust is diffuse and cooler in the red area at the top, which resembles an uncanny V, like an owl with outstretched wings. The interstellar medium in the densest region of the Milky Way's disk is too inflated with gas and dust to allow distant galaxies to be seen since their light cannot get through it.

How large is this setting? Follow the uppermost pillar until you come to the bright red star that protrudes like a broomstick from its lower edge. This region is larger than the entire solar system.

Many other observatories, including NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, have also closely examined the Pillars of Creation. The Hubble Space Telescope first recorded this image in 1995 and returned to it in 2014. Astronomers learn something new from each observation, and as their studies continue, they develop a better grasp of this star-forming zone. The accurate counts of the gas, dust, and stars produced by each light wavelength and cutting-edge device help astronomers better understand how stars are formed. Astronomers will use the new MIRI image's significantly more accurate dust measurements to construct a more thorough three-dimensional landscape of this far-off region since it provides them with higher resolution mid-infrared light data than ever before.

Source - NASA