About the Object

Name: [BOM2000] d203-506, HH 520, Messier 42, Orion Bar, Orion Nebula
Distance: 1400 light years
Constellation: Orion
Category: MIRI


Position (RA):5 35 20.29
Position (Dec):-5° 25' 4.50"
Field of view:0.65 x 0.64 arcminutes
Orientation:North is 89.3° left of vertical

Colours & filters

7.7 μmJames Webb Space Telescope
11 μmJames Webb Space Telescope
Infrared15 μmJames Webb Space Telescope
Infrared25 μmJames Webb Space Telescope

The Orion Bar region (upscaled MIRI image)

An international team of scientists have used data collected by the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope to detect a molecule known as the methyl cation (CH3+) for the first time, located in the protoplanetary disc surrounding a young star. They accomplished this feat with a cross-disciplinary expert analysis, including key input from laboratory spectroscopists. The vital role of CH3+ in interstellar carbon chemistry has been predicted since the 1970s, but Webb’s unique capabilities have finally made observing it possible — in a region of space where planets capable of accommodating life could eventually form.

This hazy image is Webb’s view of a small region of the Orion Nebula, made with its MIRI instrument. Filled with gas and dust, the Orion Nebula is a rich star-forming region. The newborn and young stars emit harsh ultraviolet radiation that ionises the nebula, causing it to emit light at infrared wavelengths. MIRI is sensitive to long-wavelength, mid-infrared emission, highlighting the layers of hot gases on each side of the Orion Bar that stretches through the centre. The area captured here by MIRI is much smaller than the NIRCam view, but contains a remarkable amount of detail, thanks to MIRI’s unprecedented sensitivity at these longer wavelengths.

This zoomed-in MIRI view of the Orion Bar contains the young star-protoplanetary disc system, named d203-506, that the team of astronomers scoured for key organic molecules. MIRI’s contribution to the view of d203-506 was critical to obtaining the widest range of spectra of the system, necessary to confirm their detection of the methyl cation. In particular, the molecule has a strong spectral line at around 7 microns, a wavelength that is impossible to detect through Earth’s atmosphere, but with MIRI’s in-built spectroscopy the team was able to unambiguously confirm the methyl cation’s presence.

This version of the MIRI image has been scaled up, to match the scale of the larger NIRCam image. You can find the image in its original scale here.

[Image description: A nebula made of many layers of cloudy, colourful material. In the top-left the nebula is coloured in greens, reds and yellows with a webbed, filament structure, two small stars and a darker gap region. A wall of thick, cloudy material crosses diagonally, extending towards the bottom right. It gives way to dark blue, sparse filaments with more dark gaps in the bottom corner. The image is hazy and unfocused.]


ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, M. Zamani (ESA/Webb), the PDRs4All ERS Team

About the Image

Id: weic2315c
Type: Observation
Release date: 26 June 2023, 17:00
Related releases: weic2315
Size: 1275 x 1252 px

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