How JWST’s first science fiction will impress us all

In astronomy, we study the universe by gathering light.

Astronomers have used this single-color image set around the edge to construct a (central) color image of a ring of star clusters surrounding the core of the NGC 1512 galaxy. Combining a series of images taken with different photometers. filters, a rich color image with key details about temperature, dust, and more, can be created.

(Credit: NASA, ESA, Dan Maoz (Tel Aviv University, Israel, and Columbia University, USA))

Using only visible light, however, is extremely restrictive.

Although visible light gives us a rich and diverse view of objects in the universe, it represents only a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The range is between 0.4 and 0.7 microns, which is perceived in human vision, compared to the wavelength between 0.5 and 28 microns of JWST.

(Credit: Philip Ronan / Wikimedia Commons)

It only covers wavelengths of 400-700 nanometers, while optical astronomy ignores most features.

The Andromeda galaxy, the largest galaxy closest to Earth, shows many details depending on the wavelength or wavelength range of light. The optical view, also at the top left, is made up of many different filters. Shown together, they show an incredible set of phenomena in this spiral galaxy. Multi-wave astronomy can provide unexpected insights into almost any astronomical object or phenomenon.

(Credit: Infrared: ESA / Herschel / PACS / SPIRE / J. Fritz, U. Gent; X-ray: ESA / XMM-Newton / EPIC / W. Pietsch, MPE; Optical: R. Gendler)

But multi-wave astronomy may reveal details that would not otherwise be seen.

Helix Nebula, the dying remnant of a former Sun-shaped star, reveals the distribution of its gas in visible light, but shows some dark features that appear tangled and fragmented in infrared light. Multi-wavelength views may show features that do not appear in a single set of light wavelengths.

(Credit: ESO / VISTA / J. Emerson; Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit; Animation: E. Siegel)

In fact, the dusty star regions are full of spectacular phenomena that are waiting to be revealed.

The Carina Nebula, in visible light (above) and near infrared (below), is represented by the Hubble Space Telescope at different wavelengths, allowing us to construct these two very different perspectives. Any region of a dusty star formation will have different spectacular features when viewed at different wavelengths of light, which should set the stage for what JWST can and should do.

(Credit: NASA, ESA, and Hubble SM4 ERO Group)

One of Hubble’s most significant goals is Pillars of Creation.

Located inside the Eagle Nebula, a large cosmic race ends at 7000 light-years away.

This 3-D display of the location and properties of the feature that appears as the Pillar of the Nebula Creation is actually made up of at least four different components, disconnected on both sides of a rich star cluster: NGC 6611. Neutral matter absorbs and reflects starlight, waves -it has a unique appearance in optical lengths.

(Credit: DBH / M. Kornmesser)

Spectacular light shows neutral matter, absorbing and reflecting light from the surrounding stars.

This visible image of a large part of the eagle nebula was taken from the ground in 2019 with an amateur configuration. Inside it reveals some iconic features, including young stars and dense, dusty regions that are creating new stars. The Pillars of Creation, in the center, reflect and absorb the light of the stars to achieve their iconic appearance.

(Credit: David (Deddy) Dayag / Wikimedia Commons)

Inside, new stars are actively formed, with columns evaporating inside.

This very unfamiliar view of the Pillars of Creation shows the limitations of the Hubble Space Telescope’s capabilities: reaching the near infrared to look at the matter from the neutral matter in the columns and the stars that form inside. Most stars are objects in the background, behind columns, but some are proto-stars that are currently forming inside them.

(Credit: NASA, ESA / Hubble and Hubble Heritage Team)

Outside, the outer stellar radiation boils neutral matter.

By rotating and stretching the two iconic and high-resolution images of Hubble at the top of the column, the changes from 1995 to 2015 can be superimposed. Contrary to many people’s beliefs, the evaporation process is slow and slow.

(Credit: WFC3: NASA, ESA / Hubble and Hubble Heritage Team WFPC2: NASA, ESA / Hubble, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University))

The race is to form new stars, inside, before the gas is completely gone.

The Pillars of Creation are some of the last dense knots that make up the neutral and stellar matter inside the Eagle Nebula. From the outside, hot stars radiate from the columns, boiling the gas. Inside the columns, matter falls and new stars are formed, even those that radiate from the inside of the columns. We are witnessing the recent shaking of star formation within this region.

(Credit: Roi Levi and Mike Selbi / Wikimedia Commons)

Hubble’s double images, separated by 20 years, show that this structure is evolving.

This image compares two views of the Eagle Nebula Creation Columns taken by Hubble at the age of 20. The new image, on the left, shows almost exactly the same region as in 1995, on the right. However, the newer image uses Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, installed in 2009, to capture light from oxygen, hydrogen, and bright sulfur with greater brightness, as well as a larger field of view. Columns are changing very slowly over time; it will take hundreds of thousands of years to complete the evaporation.

(Credit: WFC3: NASA, ESA / Hubble and Hubble Heritage Team; WFPC2: NASA, ESA / Hubble, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University))

But the wavelengths of the other light show what is happening under the dust.

Chandra’s unique ability to resolve and locate X-ray sources allowed him to identify hundreds of very young stars that are still in the process of formation (known as “protoizar”). Infrared observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Southern European Observatory indicate that 219 of the X-ray sources in the Eagle Nebula are young stars surrounded by dust and gas disks, and 964 are young stars without these disks. If you asked me, no trace of a supernova was found; the columns are not destroyed.

(Credit: NASA / CXC / INAF / M.Guarcello et al .; Optical: NASA / STScI)

The X-ray wavelength of NASA’s Chandra shows new stars and star debris.

Using Chandra, the researchers detected more than 1,700 X-ray sources in the Eagle Nebula field. Two-thirds of these sources are young stars located in the Nebula, some of which can be seen in this small field of view around the Pillars of Creation. Although most sources do not come from within the columns, the “eye” of the largest column corresponds to a proto-star about 5 times the mass of the Sun.

(Credit: NASA / CXC / INAF / M.Guarcello et al .; Optical: NASA / STScI)

Near-infrared views are seen through the dust, revealing young stars inside.

infrared columns of creation

From the Very Large Telescope of ESO, this infrared view of the Pillars of Creation, an 8.2-meter telescope on the ground, looks through the dust of the Pillars of Creation to reveal the stars that form inside. JWST’s views will be much higher resolution, much more accurate, and have a much longer wavelength range.

(Credit: VLT / ISAAC / McCaughrean & Andersen / AIP / ESO)

Herschel’s infrared eyes revealed cold, neutral matter, which would later form new stars.

herschel columns

This image of the Herschel of the Eagle Nebula shows the self-emission of gas and dust from the cold nebula, as never seen before. Each color shows a different powder temperature, about 10 degrees above absolute zero (10 Kelvin or minus 442 degrees Fahrenheit) for red, about 40 Kelvin or minus 388 degrees Fahrenheit for blue. The Pillars of Creation are one of the hottest parts of the nebula that reveal these wavelengths.

(Credit: ESA / Herschel / PACS / SPIRE / Hill, Motte, HOBYS Key Program Consortium)

NASA’s Spitzer looked at JWST’s wavelengths before.

infrared columns

This infrared and composite multi-channel takeover of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope in 2007 shows “pillars of creation” on the right and “inspiration” or “fairy” on the left, similar to Hubble’s iconic features at optical wavelengths. . JWST will greatly enhance these insights by showing details that only Spitzer could have dreamed of.

(Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / N. Flagey (IAS / SSC) & A. Noriega-Crespo (SSC / Caltech))

With a very high light-gathering power and resolution, JWST’s “primary science” is the perfect goal.


Although Spitzer (launched in 2003) predates WISE (launched in 2009), it had a larger mirror and narrower field of view. Even the first JWST images of comparable wavelengths, which are shown along with them, can solve the same characteristics of the same region with unprecedented accuracy. This is a preview of the quality of science that we will achieve with JWST.

(Credit: NASA and WISE / SSC / IRAC / STScI, compiled by Andras Gaspar)

Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in pictures, visuals, and more than 200 words. Talk less; more smiles.

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