November 18 Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2022 November 18

The protostar L1527, shown in this image from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, is embedded within a cloud of material that is feeding its growth. Material ejected from the star has cleared out cavities above and below it, whose boundaries glow orange and blue in this infrared view. The upper central region displays bubble-like shapes due to stellar ‘burps,’ or sporadic ejections. Webb also detects filaments made of molecular hydrogen that has been shocked by past stellar ejections. Intriguingly, the edges of the cavities at upper left and lower right appear straight, while the boundaries at upper right and lower left are curved. The region at lower right appears blue, as there’s less dust between it and Webb than the orange regions above it.

The Protostar within L1527

Image Credit: Science – NASAESACSASTScINIRCam
Processing – Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

Explanation: The protostar within dark cloud L1527 is a mere 100,000 years old, still embedded in the cloud of gas and dust that feeds its growth. In this NIRCam image from the James Webb Space Telescope, the dark band at the neck of the infrared nebula is a thick disk that surrounds the young stellar object. Viewed nearly edge-on and a little larger than our Solar System, the disk ultimately supplies material to the protostar while hiding it from Webb’s direct infrared view. The nebula itself is seen in stunning detail though. Illuminated by infrared light from the protostar, the hourglass-shaped nebula’s cavities are created as material ejected in the star-forming process plows through the surrounding medium. As the protostar gains mass it will eventually become a full-fledged star, collapsing and igniting nuclear fusion in its core. A likely analog to our own Sun and Solar System in their early infancy, the protostar within dark cloud L1527 lies some 460 light-years distant in the Taurus star-forming region. Webb’s NIRCam image spans about 0.3 light-years.

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