NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is still more than a year from launching, but the Gemini South telescope in Chile has provided astronomers a glimpse of what the orbiting observatory should deliver.
Using a wide-field adaptive optics camera that corrects for distortion from Earth’s atmosphere, Rice University’s Patrick Hartigan and Andrea Isella and Dublin City University’s Turlough Downes used the 8.1-meter telescope to capture near-infrared images of the Carina Nebula with the same resolution that’s expected of the Webb Telescope.
Hartigan, Isella and Downes describe their work in a study published online this week in Astrophysical Journal Letters. Their images, gathered over 10 hours in January 2018 at the international Gemini Observatory, a program of the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab, show part of a molecular cloud about 7,500 light years from Earth. All stars, including Earth’s sun, are thought to form within molecular clouds.