Red, Webb and boom: NASA telescope captures celestial firework from young star

L1527, shown in this image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument), is a molecular cloud that harbors a protostar. It resides about 460 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. ((NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI))

NASA released a new image from the James Webb Space Telescope to celebrate America's birthday, showing a fiery hourglass as a young celestial object becomes a star.

The hourglass shape is created by a protostar, or young star, gathering mass from its parent molecular cloud called L1527, about 460 light-years from Earth, within the constellation Taurus.

The space agency said a protostar, estimated to be about 100,000 years old, is at the center of the hourglass. Meanwhile, the glass of the hourglass shape is created from enormous clouds of gas and dust around the forming star. 

A central protostar grows in the neck of the hourglass, accumulating material from a thin protoplanetary disk, seen edge-on as a dark line.

The image was created using Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) to show the outflows moving in opposite directions as the protostar consumes gas and dust from the molecular cloud. According to NASA, these outflows appear as bow shocks around the cloud. The process is responsible for creating the luminous hourglass figure within the cloud as it energizes matter, causing the areas above and below the protostar to glow.

This isn't Webb's first snapshot of the fledgling star. NASA previously released an image from Webb's Near-Infrared Camera showing more details of the cloud and protostar's tapestry of colors. 

Closer to home, cameras on the International Space Station, about 200 miles above Earth, also captured some natural fireworks. Astronauts on the ISS witness some of the best views of aurora lights, created from interactions with Earth's magnetic field.