Do you ever sit around and look at baby pictures of your family or friends? It's always fun seeing how much people change as they grow older.
Sadly, the Sun doesn't have any photos of itself as a young star. There were no cameras around 4.6 billion years ago!
But thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), we have the next best thing. Footage of a 'protostar'—a newborn star! (Proto- means 'before'.)
Called L1527, this magnificent hourglass formation is about 100,000 years old. That's barely a few days old in star years (our own Sun is just middle-aged and likely to live another 5 billion years). This view gives astronomers an incredible chance to observe a process that has happened billions upon billions of times across the universe, but which is still difficult to witness.
And L1527 has a few more surprises up its sleeve.
Those brilliant orange and blue clouds are striking in this image, but if we could magically transport ourselves 430 light years to the Taurus molecular cloud where L1527 lives, it would look like barely anything was there.
That's because these images are only visible under infrared light. (This is a type of electromagnetic radiation that is 'below' visible light, or what the human eye can see.) This is a big reason why astronomers are so thrilled with the JWST. It not only looks deeper into space than any other spaced telescope we have, it also is able to see hidden worlds.
For now, L1527 is a ways away from being an actual star. Experts estimate that around 20 to 40 percent of its mass is solar, while the rest is a cluster of hot gas. It will take a long time for the natural gravity of all of that mass to really come together and start the fusion reactions that make a star a star!
But we all need to crawl before we can walk, as the saying goes. Or glow before we burn? Whatever the case, we think this newborn protostar is just adorable. Thanks for the shots, James Webb Space Telescope!
I saw the first picture in this article in a book and it was called something like the butterfly nebula and it was nice to learn about stars forming.
Wow! It is so beautiful!