Amongst the James Webb Space Telescope’s early programs is research that intends to utilize Webb to identify the nearby stellar nursery NGC 1333. The international team of scientists will picture the stellar nursery’s tiny, faint residents that have been hard to detect with less-powerful telescopes.
Brown dwarfs are deemed as failed stars. However, they start their lives in a similar way as true stars; in clouds of collapsing gas and dust, they do not compile enough mass to initiate fusion. Therefore, they are pretty small and do not generate bright light like other stars, rendering them tough to detect. Brown dwarfs exist somewhere between gas giant planets and red dwarfs, the tiniest and most unique type of main-sequence star.
“The least-massive brown dwarfs identified so far are only five to 10 times heftier than the planet Jupiter,” Alek Scholz, an astronomer at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and leader of the study, announced in a statement. “We don’t yet know whether even-lower-mass objects form in stellar nurseries. With Webb, we expect to identify cluster members as puny as Jupiter for the first time ever.”
The team will study rogue planets or celestial bodies created in a stellar system before being deposed into space and left to float freely among the stars.
To identify these tiny, dark objects, the researchers will utilize Webb’s Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph, enabling the scientists to perform spectroscopy on dozens of things at the same time.