Astronomers capture the most detailed image ever of a star formation zone in Orion’s ‘sword’

The new observations provide new insight into the process of planet and star formation. They will be used to validate upcoming James Webb Space Telescope observations that will peer even further into the relatively nearby region of space.

The ‘sharpest images of the Orion Bar ever’

“It was thrilling being the first, together with my colleagues of the ‘PDRs4All’ James Webb Space Telescope team, to see the sharpest images of the Orion Bar ever taken in the near-infrared,” explained Carlos Alvarez, a staff astronomer at Keck Observatory and co-author of the study.

The researchers, whose work will be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, and is available in preprint format on arXiv.org, say the Orion Nebula is the closest massive star formation region to Earth, meaning that this investigation into its PDR — the region heated by starlight — could provide valuable clues about the way stars and planets are formed.

“Observing photo-dissociation regions is like looking into our past,” said Emilie Habart, an Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale associate professor at Paris-Saclay University and the lead author of a paper on this study. “These regions are important because they allow us to understand how young stars influence the gas and dust cloud they are born in, particularly sites where stars, like the sun, form.”

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