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Webb snaps detailed infrared image of actively forming stars


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      Using the unprecedented capabilities of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, an international team of scientists has obtained the first spectroscopic observations of the faintest galaxies during the first billion years of the Universe. These findings help answer a longstanding question for astronomers: what sources caused the reionisation of the Universe? 
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      This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image features IC 3476, a dwarf galaxy that lies about 54 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Coma Berenices. While this image does not look very dramatic – we might say it looks almost serene – the actual physical events taking place in IC 3476 are highly energetic. In fact, the little galaxy is undergoing a process called ram pressure stripping that is driving unusually high levels of star formation in regions of the galaxy. 
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      Text credit: European Space Agency (ESA)
      Media Contact:
      Claire Andreoli
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
      claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
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    • By NASA
      1 min read
      Hubble Views an Active Star-Forming Galaxy
      This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image features dwarf galaxy, IC 3476. ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Sun This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image features IC 3476, a dwarf galaxy that lies about 54 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Coma Berenices. While this image does not look very dramatic – we might say it looks almost serene – the actual physical events taking place in IC 3476 are highly energetic. In fact, the little galaxy is undergoing a process called ram pressure stripping that is driving unusually high levels of star formation in regions of the galaxy. 
      The gas and dust that permeates space exerts pressure on a galaxy as it moves. This resistance, called ram pressure, can strip a galaxy of its star-forming gas and dust, reducing or even stopping the creation of new stars. However, ram pressure can also compress gas in other parts of the galaxy, which can boost star formation. This may be happening in IC 3476. The galaxy appears to have absolutely no star formation along its edges, which bear the brunt of the ram pressure stripping, but star formation rates deeper within the galaxy are noticeably above average. 
      Text credit: European Space Agency (ESA)

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      Media Contact:
      Claire Andreoli
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
      claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
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      Details
      Last Updated Feb 22, 2024 Editor Andrea Gianopoulos Related Terms
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    • By NASA
      5 Min Read Webb Finds Evidence for Neutron Star at Heart of Young Supernova Remnant
      The James Webb Space Telescope has observed the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star. Credits:
      NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, C. Fransson (Stockholm University), M. Matsuura (Cardiff University), M. J. Barlow (University College London), P. J. Kavanagh (Maynooth University), J. Larsson (KTH Royal Institute of Technology) NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has found the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star at the site of a recently observed supernova. The supernova, known as SN 1987A, was a core-collapse supernova, meaning the compacted remains at its core formed either a neutron star or a black hole. Evidence for such a compact object has long been sought, and while indirect evidence for the presence of a neutron star has previously been found, this is the first time that the effects of high-energy emission from the probable young neutron star have been detected.
      Supernovae – the explosive final death throes of some massive stars – blast out within hours, and the brightness of the explosion peaks within a few months. The remains of the exploding star will continue to evolve at a rapid rate over the following decades, offering a rare opportunity for astronomers to study a key astronomical process in real time.
      Supernova 1987A
      The supernova SN 1987A occurred 160,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud. It was first observed on Earth in February 1987, and its brightness peaked in May of that year. It was the first supernova that could be seen with the naked eye since Kepler’s Supernova was observed in 1604.
      About two hours prior to the first visible-light observation of SN 1987A, three observatories around the world detected a burst of neutrinos lasting only a few seconds. The two different types of observations were linked to the same supernova event, and provided important evidence to inform the theory of how core-collapse supernovae take place. This theory included the expectation that this type of supernova would form a neutron star or a black hole. Astronomers have searched for evidence for one or the other of these compact objects at the center of the expanding remnant material ever since.
      Indirect evidence for the presence of a neutron star at the center of the remnant has been found in the past few years, and observations of much older supernova remnants –such as the Crab Nebula – confirm that neutron stars are found in many supernova remnants. However, no direct evidence of a neutron star in the aftermath of SN 1987A (or any other such recent supernova explosion) had been observed, until now.
      Image: Supernova 1987A
      The James Webb Space Telescope has observed the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star at the site of a well-known and recently-observed supernova known as SN 1987A. At left is a NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) image released in 2023. The image at top right shows light from singly ionized argon (Argon II) captured by the Medium Resolution Spectrograph (MRS) mode of MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument). The image at bottom right shows light from multiply ionized argon captured by the NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph). Both instruments show a strong signal from the center of the supernova remnant. This indicated to the science team that there is a source of high-energy radiation there, most likely a neutron star. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, C. Fransson (Stockholm University), M. Matsuura (Cardiff University), M. J. Barlow (University College London), P. J. Kavanagh (Maynooth University), J. Larsson (KTH Royal Institute of Technology) Claes Fransson of Stockholm University, and the lead author on this study, explained: “From theoretical models of SN 1987A, the 10-second burst of neutrinos observed just before the supernova implied that a neutron star or black hole was formed in the explosion. But we have not observed any compelling signature of such a newborn object from any supernova explosion. With this observatory, we have now found direct evidence for emission triggered by the newborn compact object, most likely a neutron star.”
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      Webb began science observations in July 2022, and the Webb observations behind this work were taken on July 16, making the SN 1987A remnant one of the first objects observed by Webb. The team used the Medium Resolution Spectrograph (MRS) mode of Webb’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument), which members of the same team helped to develop. The MRS is a type of instrument known as an Integral Field Unit (IFU).
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      Spectral analysis of the results showed a strong signal due to ionized argon from the center of the ejected material that surrounds the original site of SN 1987A. Subsequent observations using Webb’s NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph) IFU at shorter wavelengths found even more heavily ionized chemical elements, particularly five times ionized argon (meaning argon atoms that have lost five of their 18 electrons). Such ions require highly energetic photons to form, and those photons have to come from somewhere.
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      More observations are planned this year, with Webb and ground-based telescopes. The research team hopes ongoing study will provide more clarity about exactly what is happening in the heart of the SN 1987A remnant. These observations will hopefully stimulate the development of more detailed models, ultimately enabling astronomers to better understand not just SN 1987A, but all core-collapse supernovae.
      These findings were published in the journal Science.
      The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
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      Download full resolution images for this article from the Space Telescope Science Institute.
      Media Contacts
      Rob Gutro – rob.gutro@nasa.gov
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      Christine Pulliam – cpulliam@stsci.edu
      Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
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      Details
      Last Updated Feb 22, 2024 Editor Marty McCoy Related Terms
      Astrophysics Goddard Space Flight Center James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Neutron Stars Science & Research Stars Supernovae The Universe View the full article
    • By European Space Agency
      The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope has found the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star at the site of a recently observed supernova. The supernova, known as SN 1987A, occurred 160 000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud. SN 1987A was observed on Earth in 1987, the first supernova that was visible to the naked eye since 1604 — before the advent of telescopes.
      View the full article
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