The Webb Space Telescope reveals a massive star-forming complex

The James Webb Space Telescope captured a stunning image of N79, a vibrant star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, highlighting its potential as a younger version of the Tarantula Nebula. The observation reveals the region's glowing gas and dust in mid-infrared light, providing valuable insights into the star formation processes and chemical compositions of the early universe, which is remarkably different from our Milky Way. Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, O. Nayak, M. Meixner

The The James Webb Space Telescope Reveals the inner workings of N79, a key star-forming region in the LMC, showing its relative efficiency and chemical uniqueness. milky way.

In this image from the James Webb Space Telescope, our Milky Way's satellite galaxy contains the H II region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). The nebula, known as N79, is part of an ionized interstellar nucleus of atomic hydrogen, captured here by Webb's Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI).

N79 is a large star-forming complex spanning about 1630 light-years in the generally unexplored southwestern region of the LMC. N79 is generally considered a younger version of 30 Doratus (also known as the Tarantula Nebula), one of Webb's latest targets. The research suggests that N79 has a star formation rate twice that of 30 Doratas in the last 500,000 years.

This particular image focuses on one of the three giant molecular cloud complexes known as N79 South (abbreviated S1). A distinctive 'starburst' pattern surrounding this bright object is a series of diffraction spikes. All telescopes that use mirrors to collect light, like Webb, have a form of artifact that arises from the telescope's design.

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In the case of the web, six large starburst spikes appear due to the hexagonal symmetry of the web's 18 primary mirror segments. Such patterns are observed only around very bright, compact objects where all the light comes from a single point. Most galaxies, although they appear very small to our eyes, are darker and more diffuse than a star, and therefore do not show this pattern.

Webb's mid-infrared insights into galaxy formation

In the longer wavelengths of light captured by MIRI, Webb's view of N79 shows the region's glowing gas and dust. This is because mid-infrared light can reveal what's going on deep within the clouds (while shorter wavelengths of light are absorbed or scattered by dust grains in the nebula). A few more embedded protostars also appear in this field.

Star-forming regions like these are of interest to astronomers because their chemical composition is similar to that of giant star-forming regions observed when the universe was a few billion years old and star formation was at its peak. The star-forming regions in our Milky Way Galaxy are not producing stars at the same furious rate as N79, and they have a different chemical composition. Webb now gives astronomers the opportunity to compare and contrast observations of star formation in N79 with deep telescope observations of distant galaxies in the early universe.

These observations of N79 are part of a WEBB project that studies the evolution of star-forming circumstellar disks and envelopes at a wide range of masses and different evolutionary stages. Webb's sensitivity will enable scientists for the first time to detect planet-forming dust disks around stars with masses similar to our Sun at the distance of the LMC.

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The 7.7-micron light shown in this image is blue, 10 microns in cyan, 15 microns in yellow, and 21 microns in red (770W, 1000W, 1500W, and 2100W filters, respectively).

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