New York : In a recent snapshot, the next-generation James Webb Space Telescope recorded a region of our galaxy’s dense center in unprecedented clarity, revealing peculiarities that astronomers have not yet been able to explain.
Sagittarius C (Sgr C), the star-forming zone, is located around 300 light-years away from Sagittarius A, the center supermassive black hole of the Milky Way.
“We are seeing lots of features here for the first time because there has never been any infrared data on this region with the level of resolution and sensitivity we get with Webb,” said Samuel Crowe, the primary scientist and an undergraduate at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “Webb provides us with a wealth of information that was previously unattainable, making it possible to examine star formation in this kind of setting.
Professor Jonathan Tan of the University of Virginia continued, “The galactic center is the most extreme environment in our Milky Way galaxy, where current theories of star formation can be put to their most rigorous test.” A cluster of protostars, or stars that are still developing and acquiring mass, can be seen among the image’s estimated 500,000 stars. These stars produce outflows that burn like a blaze in the middle of an infrared-dark cloud.
A previously undiscovered huge protostar with a mass over 30 times that of the sun lies in the center of this nascent cluster.
Even though it is one of the most densely packed regions of the image, Webb appears less crowded because the cloud from which the protostars are emerging is so dense that light from stars behind it cannot reach it.
Tiny infrared dark clouds appear as holes in the starfield, scattered throughout the image. Future stars are forming there. The image displays blue coloration indicating the large-scale emission from ionized hydrogen encircling the lower edge of the dark cloud, which was also captured by Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) sensor.
According to Crowe, this is typically the result of young big stars emitting intense photons; however, the sheer size of the region that Webb revealed is surprising and warrants more research.
The needle-like formations in the ionized hydrogen, which appear to be orientated chaotically in multiple directions, are another aspect of the region that Crowe want to investigate further.
“The galactic centre is a crowded, tumultuous place. There are turbulent, magnetised gas clouds that are forming stars, which then impact the surrounding gas with their outflowing winds, jets, and radiation,” said Ruben Fedriani, a co-investigator of the project at the Instituto Astrofisica de Andalucia in Spain.
“Webb has provided us with a ton of data on this extreme environment, and we are just starting to dig into it.” Webb is an international programme led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.