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'James Webb' Helps Photograph the Tarantula Nebula in Incredible Detail.
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory have collaborated to provide a stunning new view of a stable region of the star cluster known as the Tarantula Emission Nebula.
An emission (self-luminous) nebula is an interstellar cloud that emits in the optical range due to the ionization of its own gas. Located just 161,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy, the Tarantula Nebula, officially known as 30 Doradus, is the largest and brightest region in the galaxies closest to our Milky Way. It is home to the hottest and most massive stars known, which in turn helps astronomers better understand how stars are born and develop.
A detailed new image shows clouds of gas and dust in the nebula, as well as supernova remnants from stellar explosions that serve as building blocks for the next generation of stars. The bright blue and purple areas of this new mosaic are Chandra X-ray data, while the red, orange, green and blue areas are observations from the James Webb Space Telescope.
X-ray data capture gas heated to millions of degrees by shock waves generated by the solar wind of massive stars. The infrared data reveals young stars, also known as protostars, as well as cooler gas that provides the raw material for future star formation.
“The chemical composition of 30 Doradus is different from most of the nebulae found in the Milky Way. Instead, it reflects conditions in our galaxy that existed billions of years ago, when stars were forming at a much faster rate than astronomers see today. “This, combined with its relative proximity and brightness, means that the Tarantula Nebula provides scientists with an opportunity to learn more about how stars formed in our galaxy in the distant past.”
While the James Webb Space Telescope was launched just over a year ago at the end of 2021, and the first photos taken by it were published in July 2022. The Chandra X-ray Lab has continuously studied the 30 Doradus Nebula throughout its 23-year mission. The huge interstellar cloud remains an important target for astronomers to observe and analyze.