Serpens (NIRCam)

 Serpens (NIRCam)

In this image of the Serpens Nebula from the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, astronomers found a grouping of aligned protostellar outflows within one small region (the top left corner). In the Webb image, these jets are signified by bright clumpy streaks that appear red, which are shockwaves from the jet hitting surrounding gas and dust.

The Serpens Nebula, located 1,300 light-years from Earth, is home to a particularly dense cluster of newly forming stars (~100,000 years old), some of which will eventually grow to the mass of our Sun.

This region has been home to other coincidental discoveries, including the flapping “Bat Shadow,” which earned its name when 2020 data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope revealed a shadow from a star’s planet-forming disk to flap, or shift. This feature is visible at the center of the Webb image.

To the right of the “Bat Shadow” lies another intriguing feature—an eye-shaped crevice, which appears as if a star is bursting through. However, astronomers say looks may be deceiving here. This could just be gases of different densities layered on top of one another, similar to what is seen in the famous Pillars of Creation.

And to the right of that, an extremely dark patch could be a similar occurrence. This gas and dust are so dense in comparison to the rest of the region, no near-infrared light is getting through.

About The Object
Object Name Serpens Nebula, HBC 672, [EC 92] 82
Object Description Reflection nebula and star forming region
R.A. Position 18:29:56.91
Dec. Position +1:14:45.77
Constellation Serpens
Distance 1,300 light-years
Dimensions Image is about 6.3 arcminutes across (1.8 light-years)
About The Data
Data Description The Webb observations include those from program (K. Pontoppidan). Image Processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)  
Instrument NIRCam
Exposure Dates 26 April 2023, 12 May 2023
Filters F140M, F210M, F360M, F480M
About The Image
Color Info This image is a composite of separate exposures acquired by the James Webb Space Telescope using the NIRCam instrument. Several filters were used to sample medium wavelength ranges. The color results from assigning different hues (colors) to each monochromatic (grayscale) image associated with an individual filter. In this case, the assigned colors are:  Blue: F140M, Cyan: F210M, Orange: F360M, Red: 480M  
Compass Image A rectangular image with black vertical rectangles at the bottle left and top right to indicate missing data. A young star-forming region is filled with wispy orange, red, and blue layers of gas and dust. The upper left corner of the image is filled with mostly orange dust, and within that orange dust, there are several small red plumes of gas that extend from the top left to the bottom right, at the same angle. The center of the image is filled with mostly blue gas. At the center, there is one particularly bright star, that has an hourglass shadow above and below it. To the right of that is what looks a vertical eye-shaped crevice with a bright star at the center. The gas to the right of the crevice is a darker orange. Small points of light are sprinkled across the field, brightest sources in the field have extensive eight-pointed diffraction spikes that are characteristic of the Webb Telescope.
About The Object
Object Name A name or catalog number that astronomers use to identify an astronomical object.
Object Description The type of astronomical object.
R.A. Position Right ascension – analogous to longitude – is one component of an object's position.
Dec. Position Declination – analogous to latitude – is one component of an object's position.
Constellation One of 88 recognized regions of the celestial sphere in which the object appears.
Distance The physical distance from Earth to the astronomical object. Distances within our solar system are usually measured in Astronomical Units (AU). Distances between stars are usually measured in light-years. Interstellar distances can also be measured in parsecs.
Dimensions The physical size of the object or the apparent angle it subtends on the sky.
About The Data
Data Description
  • Proposal: A description of the observations, their scientific justification, and the links to the data available in the science archive.
  • Science Team: The astronomers who planned the observations and analyzed the data. "PI" refers to the Principal Investigator.
Instrument The science instrument used to produce the data.
Exposure Dates The date(s) that the telescope made its observations and the total exposure time.
Filters The camera filters that were used in the science observations.
About The Image
Image Credit The primary individuals and institutions responsible for the content.
Publication Date The date and time the release content became public.
Color Info A brief description of the methods used to convert telescope data into the color image being presented.
Orientation The rotation of the image on the sky with respect to the north pole of the celestial sphere.