A breathtaking image of a star being born has been caught by the James Webb Space Telescope. A protostar is the young star’s core, which is formed when dust and gas cluster together and collapse under gravity, spinning, generating a magnetic field, and ejecting material in two powerful jets.
This transformation is clearly seen in the NIRCam image of cloud L1527 acquired by the Webb Space Telescope. The infrared vision of this camera allows it to record the protostar’s emitted clouds of material, which are otherwise unseen to the naked eye.
This view of the protostar L1527 from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope shows it immersed in a cloud of material that is fueling its expansion. Cavities above and below the star have been wiped away by material blasted from it, and their borders shine orange and blue in this infrared image. In the top center area, you can see bubble-like forms caused by stellar ‘burps,’ or random ejections. Molecular hydrogen that has been shocked by previous star ejections can likewise be seen as filaments by Webb’s telescope. Curiously, the top left and lower right cavity margins look straight but the upper right and lower left bounds are bent. When compared to the orange regions above it, the region on the bottom right appears blue because there is less dust on its path to Webb. Amongst NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI, A. DePasquale, Jr. (STScI)
The protostar itself is obscured by the hourglass shape in which it lies, although it is placed dead center in the picture. The jets emitted by the protostar shape clouds of dust and gas into that shape, with thinner portions of dust looking blue and bigger sections of dust appearing orange. Hydrogen gas has been formed into filaments by the protostar’s outflows and may be seen alongside the dust.
Based on the best available data, scientists have determined that this protostar is around 100,000 years old. The age of the sun is estimated to reach between 9 and 10 billion years from now. The mass of the protostar is just 20% to 40% that of the sun, and most critically, it is not yet creating heat through fusion.
The protostar will keep gaining mass by accumulating dust and gas. This matter is heated by friction as it spirals into the protostar under the influence of gravity. The protostar’s core temperature must rise to around 10 million degrees Kelvin before it can begin fusing hydrogen. Hydrogen atoms begin to fuse together to produce helium at this temperature, releasing energy as heat and light. At this stage, the protostar completes its transformation into a main sequence star.
There’s enough debris surrounding the protostar that it may someday become a planet. “Ultimately, this image of L1527 gives a glimpse into what our Sun and Solar System looked like in its infancy,” Webb scientists wrote.