The newly received images sourced with the Gemini South telescope in Chile, are incredible to see. They are also useful for understanding stellar nurseries and stellar births, and preview some of the images we might expect when the Whiz-Bang James Webb Space Telescope finally takes to the skies.
“The results are amazing,” said physicist and Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan.
“We see a treasure of expanses never seen before from the edge of the cloud, including a long series of parallel lines that can be produced by a magnetic field, a remarkably nearly perfectly smooth sine wave and at the top The fragments that appear in it are the process of sorting through the strong wind. ”
Stellar birth is a fascinating process, but it cannot just take place anywhere. You need a dense cloud of gas and dust enriched with molecular hydrogen, and it is dense, having areas that fall from their own mass under gravity.
As those bales collapse, any rotation becomes amplified in the conservation of angular momentum. This forms a rotating disk of physical feeding in the protostar (and which may eventually go on to form planets after the star formation process is completed).
So, the best site for star formation is dense and dusty. These interstellar clouds appear opaque, such as dark voids against the flickering background of stars at optical wavelengths. Which makes them a bit of an Achilles heel for the Hubble Space Telescope.
“Hubble operates at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths that are blocked by dust in star-forming regions such as these,” Hartigan said.
But light at infrared and near-infrared wavelengths can penetrate thick dust, allowing astronomers to peer inside these cryptic clouds. From here, means like Gemini South have an advantage over Hubble. But they also have one disadvantage. Hubble is in space. Gemini is on South Earth within the bubble of our planet’s atmosphere.
Atmospheric turbulence distorts and divides light from afar – this is why stars appear flickering when you look at the night sky. This is a problem for ground-based astronomy, and over the years, various techniques have been applied to correct for it.
It used to be that the distortion effect had to be removed after the images were processed, as the comments were already taken. However, advances in technology have allowed us for adaptive optics, which is perfect for atmospheric turbulence as observations are underway.
The Gemini South adaptive optics imager has five lasers; These beams in the sky to project artificial “guide stars” that are measured to correct the effect of atmospheric turbulence.
Using this technique, Hartigan and his team were able to obtain images of the Carina Nebula at a resolution 10 times greater than images taken without adaptive optics, and about twice as many Hubble images at this wavelength Were sharp. And the images revealed new details of interactions between a cloud of dust and gas and a cluster of young massive stars nearby.
The cloud’s section is known as the Western Wall, and the radiation that destroys the hot young stars is ionizing hydrogen, causing it to glow with infrared light. Ultraviolet radiation from stars is also causing the outer layer of hydrogen to evaporate.
Using different filters, the team was able to obtain separate images of hydrogen on the surface of the cloud and vaporized hydrogen.
“This area is perhaps the best example in the sky of an irradiated interface,” Hartigan said. “Its new images are much sharper than anything we’ve seen before. They clearly state that young stars on a large scale affect their surroundings and affect star and planet formation. ”
The James Webb Space Telescope, when it launches in about a year’s time (tactile wood), will primarily observe in infrared and near-infrared; So this image, the researchers said, looks a bit like what we can expect to see in the future.
But it also reveals the power of adaptive optics as a complement to round out or observation capabilities.
“Western wall-like structures are going to become rich hunting grounds for both web and ground-based telescopes.” Each said, “each will pierce the dust shroud and reveal new information about the birth of stars.”
You can download the high-resolution version of the image here. The research has been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.