Nov 17, 2022 - Science

Newly forming star shines in JWST photo

An hourglass shaped object in space showing a newly forming star in the center and billowing clouds above and below

The protostar L1527. Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI. Image processing: J. DePasquale, A. Pagan, and A. Koekemoer

A newly forming star typically hidden behind clouds of dust has been revealed in a new photo from the James Webb Space Telescope.

Why it matters: Studying protostars like this one provide a window into how our Sun and solar system began billions of years ago.

What's happening: The protostar L1527 — in the neck of the hourglass — is framed by blue, red and orange clouds of material. That material has cavities carved through it by matter expelled by L1527.

  • The dark line at the neck of the hourglass is the protoplanetary disk of gas and dust around the protostar and could be clumping together in the earliest stages of planet formation, according to NASA.
  • The protostar itself is estimated to be only about 100,000 years old.
  • "L1527 doesn’t generate its own energy through nuclear fusion of hydrogen yet, an essential characteristic of stars," NASA said in a statement. "Its shape, while mostly spherical, is also unstable, taking the form of a small, hot, and puffy clump of gas somewhere between 20 and 40% the mass of our Sun."

The big picture: The JWST looks out into the universe largely in infrared light, allowing it to cut through gas and dust, revealing objects that are difficult to see with other space telescopes or observatories on Earth.

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