This photograph taken by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) of the dark cloud L1527 IRS (IRAS 04368+2557) shows a protostar buried in a cloud of material that is fueling its expansion.
Credits: SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, IMAGE PROCESSING: Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI)
November 16, 2022
The James Webb Space Telescope of NASA has discovered new information about the dark cloud L1527 and its protostar. Only visible in infrared light, the nebula's brilliant hues demonstrate how the protostar is actively assembling material to develop into a fully formed star.
The protostar itself is tucked within the "neck" of this hourglass form at a distance of 460 light years from earth. The centre of the neck is darkened by an edge-on protoplanetary disk. This disk's cavities in the surrounding gas and dust are illuminated by light leaking from the protostar above and below.
In this representative-color infrared image, the region's dominant characteristics, the blue and orange clouds, outline voids formed when material shoots away from the protostar and collides with surrounding matter. Layers of dust between Webb and the clouds are what give the colors themselves their hue. The dust is thinnest in the blue regions. Blue light cannot escape from a coating of dust that is too thick, hence this results in a concentration of orange regions.
Molecular hydrogen filaments that have been shocked by the protostar's material ejections are also seen by Webb. New stars can't form in the cloud because of shocks and turbulence; otherwise, they would. As a result, the protostar rules the area and hoards most of the resources for itself.
L1527 is a relatively youthful body, being only about 100,000 years old despite the chaos it produces. L1527 is regarded as a class 0 protostar, the earliest stage of star formation, according to its age and its brightness in far-infrared radiation as seen by missions like the Infrared Astronomical Satellite. These protostars still reside in a dense cloud of gas and dust, and they still have a long way to go before they can be considered stars in their own right. L1527 does not yet produce its own energy through hydrogen nuclear fusion, a crucial aspect of stars. Although mainly spherical, its shape is unstable and takes the form of a tiny, hot, and puffy clump of gas that has a mass between 20 and 40% that of our Sun.
The protostar's core gradually contracts and approaches stable nuclear fusion as it continues to take in mass. This image's scene demonstrates L1527 accomplishing just that. Dense dust and gas are pulled to the protostar's location in the center of the surrounding molecular cloud. The material spirals around the core as it enters. This produces an accretion disk, a dense disk of material that supplies the protostar with fuel. The temperature of its core will increase as it expands and contracts further, eventually crossing the point at which nuclear fusion can start.
The disk is roughly the size of our solar system and can be seen in the photograph as a dark band in front of the dazzling core. Given the density, clumping of most of this material, the precursors of planets, is not rare. In the end, this image of L1527 offers a window into the early evolution of our Sun and solar system.
The James Webb Telescope is one of the most important observatories for space science in the world.Webb will investigate the mystifying architecture and origins of our cosmos and our part in it while also looking beyond our solar system to faraway planets surrounding other stars. The European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency are partners in the international Webb program, which is run by NASA.