NASA celebrates James Webb Space Telescope's 1-year anniversary with colorful stellar nursery image

The stellar nursery contains 50 baby stars, most with similar masses to our Sun. The James Webb Space Telescope enters its second year of science with new ambitious observations ahead.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope provided its own colorful birthday cake Wednesday, marking its first year of observations.

A new image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope released for the first anniversary shows a region about 390 light-years from Earth where stars are born, also known as a stellar nursery. 

According to NASA, the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex is the closest star-forming region to Earth. Because of the proximity, Webb didn't have any bright stars blocking the view allowing for a highly detailed image.

If you look at the image above, there is a lot to see. According to NASA, the stellar nursery has 50 baby stars with similar masses to our Sun. 

"Webb’s image of Rho Ophiuchi allows us to witness a very brief period in the stellar lifecycle with new clarity," said Klaus Pontoppidan, who served as Webb project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. "Our own Sun experienced a phase like this, long ago, and now we have the technology to see the beginning of another’s star’s story."


Dark areas of the image coated in dust have still-forming protostars. Meanwhile, the bright red are jets of molecular hydrogen.

"These occur when a star first bursts through its natal envelope of cosmic dust, shooting out a pair of opposing jets into space like a newborn first stretching her arms out into the world," according to NASA.

The glowing cavern at the center of the image is carved out by a single star, S1.

JWST ‘just getting started’

JWST became fully operational in July 2022

Webb has exceeded expectations, and the telescope team believes it will be operating for possibly 20 or 30 years.

Webb senior project scientist Jane Rigby of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said observations for the second year are just as ambitious, building on data from the past year.

"With a year of science under our belts, we know exactly how powerful this telescope is, and have delivered a year of spectacular data and discoveries," Rigby said. "Webb's science mission is just getting started — there's so much more to come."