NASA’s Webb telescope photographs boat-like shape in space

The world’s most powerful space telescope has imaged a star-forming region, the Small Magellanic Cloud, which is within a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.

NGC 346 from Webb's Near-Infrared Camera

NGC 346 from Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera


The new image was released by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), where both agency’s explain that Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) was used to capture the stunning region of space. Officially named NGC 346, astronomers have already scoured over the image and detected 1,001 sources of light, which translates to young stars that are covered in dust, according to a statement from the ESA.

Webb’s ability to capture the region of space in both near-infrared and mid-infrared wavelengths of light enables astronomers to gain a deeper understanding of the evolution of stars and protostars, within this region of space and many others like it. The results from these observations lead astronomers and astrophysicists to understand the evolution of galaxies, such as our own Milky Way, and points in time, such as the beginning of the universe.

In this representative-colour image, blue tendrils trace emission from material that includes dusty silicates and sooty chemical molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. More diffuse red emission shines from warm dust heated by the brightest and most massive stars in the heart of the region.

An arc at the centre left may be a reflection of light from the star near the arc’s centre (similar, fainter arcs appear associated with stars at lower left and upper right). Lastly, bright patches and filaments mark areas with abundant numbers of protostars. The research team has detected 1001 pinpoint sources of light, most of them young stars still embedded in their dusty cocoons,” writes the ESA about NGC 346

The lower half of this image contains arcs of bluish material that form a boat-like shape. One end of these arcs points to the top right of the image, while the other end points toward the bottom left. Another plume of blue filaments expands from the centre to the top left, resembling the mast of a sailboat.

Within and extending beyond the boat shape are translucent curtains of pink, which cover most of the image. Stars are noticeably scarce. A couple dozen bright pink patches with six short diffraction spikes are scattered within the blue filaments. Many faint blue dots, or stars, also speckle the background, which is black or dark grey,” adds the ESA to the image description

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