The James Webb Space Telescope has revealed magnificent new images of a large hourglass-shaped dust cloud around an evolving star.
Until now invisible, these orange and blue clouds became visible thanks to the infrared camera NIRCam. The very young star, known as “protostar L1527”, is located in the constellation Taurus and is hidden by a rotating disk of gas at the level of the hourglass constriction.
But light from that protostar bursts above and below that disk, illuminating gaps in the surrounding gas and dust, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) announced in a joint statement.
Clouds are formed by matter ejected from a star colliding with surrounding matter. The dust is finer in the blue parts, heavier than the orange ones. One hundred thousand years old, the protostar is in the earliest stages of formation. It still cannot generate its own energy.
The surrounding black disk, roughly the size of our solar system, will feed the protostellar material until it reaches the threshold necessary to trigger fusion.
“Ultimately, the view of L1527 is a window into what our Sun and the Solar System looked like in the beginning,” the statement said.
The Taurus Molecular Cloud, located about 430 light-years from Earth, is a stellar nursery of hundreds of soon-to-be-formed stars.