The James Webb Telescope Discovers Enigmas of the Orion Nebula That ‘Shouldn’t Exist’ | ET REALITY


We have discovered a lot in this universe. Planets orbiting stars at right angles. Forbidden worlds that have cheated death. Space explosions that defy explanation.

However, the cosmos continues to surprise us.

The latest spectacle, observed by the James Webb Space Telescope, is an agglomeration of nearly 150 free-floating objects in the middle of the Orion Nebula, not far in mass from Jupiter. Dozens of these worlds are even orbiting each other. The scientists who discovered them have called them Jupiter Mass Binary Objects, or JuMBOs, and the reason for their appearance is a complete mystery.

“There is something wrong with our understanding of planet formation or star formation or both,” said Samuel Pearson, a scientist at the European Space Agency who worked on the observations that were made. shared on monday, which have not yet been peer-reviewed. “They should not exist”.

The Orion Nebula is a star-forming region 1,350 light years from Earth, located in the belt of the Orion constellation in the northern hemisphere. Astronomers have long studied it, but scientists involved in studying the area with the new Webb telescope, also released on mondayThey say the new images are “by far” the best seen so far.

“We have better resolution than Hubble, but now in the infrared,” said Mark McCaughrean, ESA’s senior science and exploration advisor. He said the latest observations revealed lots of star formation and nascent planetary systems in a way never seen before.

Stars in our universe form when giant clouds of dust and gas gradually coalesce under gravity. Over time, regions of a cloud become so dense that they compress hydrogen atoms and initiate nuclear fusion, forming the core of a star. In less dense areas, a tinier version of fusion, deuterium fusion, can occur in smaller objects. They are called brown dwarfs or sometimes “failed stars.”

JuMBOs appear to be a smaller class of gaseous objects. While brown dwarfs can grow to about 13 times the mass of Jupiter, the new objects can become as small as about half the planet’s mass, with temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. They are separated by about 200 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun, and orbit each other on trajectories that take more than 20,000 years to complete.

If they were alone in space, they might be easier to explain. But their appearance in pairs, 42 of which are seen by the Webb telescope in the Orion Nebula, is puzzling. According to existing scientific models, it should not be possible to form such small individual objects directly from clouds of dust and gas, much less in pairs, Dr. Pearson said. Even if they were ejected planets (violently ejected from young stars due to gravitational forces), it’s also unclear why there would be so many couplets.

“It’s like kicking a teacup across a room and having all the tea fall into the cup,” Dr. Pearson said. “And then do that 42 times.”

The discovery is “completely unexpected,” said Matthew Bate, a professor of theoretical astrophysics at the University of Exeter in England. Many stars, maybe even all the stars, including our sun, are born in pairs. But as binary objects decrease in mass, they become less common, as their weaker gravitational pull makes them more easily torn apart. However, the existence of JuMBO “implies that we may be missing something about how these very low-mass objects form,” Dr. Bate said.

Dr. Pearson hopes to get to the bottom of the problem by using the Webb telescope to separate light from objects, revealing what their gaseous atmospheres are made of and perhaps how they formed. Currently, he said, he can only deduce evidence of methane and water in them.

It might also help to look for JuMBO in other star-forming regions.

“Orion is really massive and very dense,” Dr. Pearson said. “Do we find the same thing happening in a dispersed region? “That could give us a clue as to what formation mechanism might be occurring.”

Until that mystery is solved, humans can marvel at the valuable new perspective on the Orion Nebula offered by the Webb telescope.

“When I was a young student and we were just starting to use electronic sensors on telescopes, we often waited with great anticipation for each ‘YAMOO’ (Yet Another Map of Orion) because of the remarkable and surprising details each new detector revealed.” said Heidi Hammel, NASA interdisciplinary scientist for the telescope and vice president of science for the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy.

The Webb telescope, he said, “had spectacular results with its YAMOO.”

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