Webb telescope sees rare star duo full of dust rings


At first glance, this might appear as if a clumsy astronomer had smeared a new space photo with a fingerprint.

These ridges are actually all part of a new picture from the James Webb Space Telescope, the leading observatory in the sky. Astronomers are studying the rings of dust wrapped around a duet of stars known as Wolf-Rayet 140, 5,000 light-years from Earth.

All in all, the rare cosmic object 17 visible ringseach formed when a pair of stars and their solar winds—gases pouring from the stars— collided and compressed, according to NASA. Telescopes on Earth could only see two of these rings, or “dust shells.”

“I was confused by what I saw in the preview images,” said Ryan Lau, an astronomer at the National Science Foundation‘s NOIRLab. in an opinion. “There seemed to be an odd looking diffraction pattern and I feared it was a visual effect created by the extreme brightness of the stars.”

But Lau their research with a team of scientists was recently published in natural astronomy, the data soon saw in its final form, a lot of dust rings. Like the rings on a cut tree trunk, the dust tells scientists a story about its age. The elongated orbits of these two stars bring them closer together every eight years. Collectively, the system has been producing dust for over a century.

An instrument on the telescope that observes long-infrared waves indicated the dust was composed of material one would expect from a Wolf-Rayet Star. A Wolf-Rayet is a blue-white near-death star born 25 times more massive than the Sun. Because it’s old and about to collapse a black holeit burns hotter and produces strong gas winds.

Want more science and technology news delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for Mashable’s Top Stories newsletter today.


The spectacular Webb Telescope image shows a star death like never before

NASA explains the complicated process of turning space gases into dust with a metaphor of how baking bread with flour begins:

The most common element in stars, hydrogen, cannot form dust itself. But because Wolf-Rayet stars lose so much mass, they also eject more complex elements typically found deep in a star, including carbon. The heavy elements in the wind cool as they travel into space, then are compressed where the winds from both stars meet, like two hands kneading dough.

What makes the photographed Wolf-Rayet 140 system unique is its dust ring pattern. Due to the orbits of the two stars, their winds only collide and create dust when they come close. With other Wolf-Rayet duos, they can stir up dust non-stop.

Astronomers believe these systems play important roles in the formation of stars and planets, but so far they have only about 600 found in the Milky Way. Based on calculations, they estimate there should be at least a few thousand, according to NASA.

The new study makes the strongest case with data suggesting that Wolf-Rayet stars produce carbon-rich dust molecules, the same chemical that makes up most of humans and other life on Earth.

Scientists believe further such studies with Webb will reveal how these stars mold material between themselves to trigger new star and galaxy births.


Comments are closed.