NASA’s new deep spacecraft will soon turn its eyes to a nearby region filled with dwarf stars.
The James Webb Space Telescope has almost completed its commissioning, and it will release its first working images on July 12. Next comes the first scientific program, including the investigation of the Trapezium Cluster, an astronomical nursery in the Orion Nebula for nearly 1,350 light-years from Earth.
The group is covered with gas and dust and includes about 1,000 stars that have settled in an area roughly four light-years away, Webb Consortium officials said in a statement.
The stars are also relatively small (about a million years old) compared with the sun at 4.5 billion years. Although the lead in the center of our solar system is relatively small, the Trapezium stars are relatively small, only about three or four days old.
“Astronomers using the Webb telescope will study this collection to understand the stars and their planetary systems in the early stages [of their emergence],” officials wrote in a 2020 statement on Trapezium research.
The team, led by Mark McCaughrean, a Webb scientist specializing in astronomy and senior adviser to the European Space Agency, plans to focus on three existing objects in the Trapezium.
The first one will look at smaller objects, including darker ones (bodies that were too small to ignite nuclear flares in their orbits but were too large to be separated as planets) and the free-floating worlds without rotation around the star. These complex species may reveal other clues as to how the planets formed, either as part of the formation of the stars or themselves, agency officials said in a statement.
The second study will study the planet’s formation in the first stages, using Webb’s infrared detectors to measure exoplanets that may form on small star disks.
“By comparing [Webb’s images] with images in the visual light created by the Hubble Space Telescope, the team will learn about dust formation, which will help them to understand the early stages of planetary formation,” the Federation said.
The last three of these studies are related to aircraft departure, and the emergence of young stars, which consortium officials have said are necessary for star formation.
“Because the Orion Nebula is home to many, many smaller stars, there are more and more flights out of the region, both large and small,” the statement said. “The team will use the Webb to measure the best properties for this output and determine their speed, and to evaluate their response to the accumulation of surrounding star clouds.”
Webb is fully developed in such research as it detects infrared light, the heat emitted by visible objects, allowing the telescope to look at the dust and see even fewer bodies. In addition, the consortium says that the telescope’s position in the deep atmosphere keeps us away from Earth’s atmosphere, which interferes with infrared vision.