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Nasa reveals mesmerising new photo from 200,000 light-years away – and it holds a massive secret

Nasa reveals mesmerising new photo from 200,000 light-years away – and it holds a massive secret

NASA is using the James Webb Space Telescope to take a look at one of the Milky Way’s closest neighbours.

The small galaxy is around 200,000 light-years away from Earth – and could be the home of one of astronomers biggest unanswered questions.


T616XM James Webb Space Telescope observing a distant star (3d illustration, elements of this image are furnished by NASA)Credit: Alamy

Scientists are using the $10billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to map out how our universe came to be.

In the neighbouring galaxy, known as NGC 246, scientists are using the telescope to understand how the universe’s earliest stars formed, more than 10billion years ago.

NGC 346 is a star cluster that is nested inside a nebula, referred to as the Small Magellanic Cloud.

The galaxy, which appears to lack metals heavier than hydrogen and helium, is thick with around 33,000 young stars.

The levels of metals in the galaxy suggests that this is what the universe was like in its early history, when it was birthing stars left, right and centre.

Using the JWST’s infrared camera, astronomers found “ribbons of gas and dust” within the galaxy.

Researchers think this is early proof that despite the galaxy being low on metals, it is dusty – and therefore has the building blocks for forming rocky planetary systems.

Some of the high-mass infant stars, known to astronomers as young stellar objects (YSOs), have formed within the past 1million years.

Astronomers will observe these young stars to figure out how the universes oldest stars were born.

“We were so excited to see the dust around these things,”  said Margaret Meixner, an astronomer at the Universities Space Research Association and one of the authors of the study.

“We have just scratched the surface of this data.”

However, researchers still have a long way to go.

It is unknown if enough dust survives the star formation process to help form rocky planetary systems in a ‘metal-poor’ galaxy.

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