UNITED STATES: The James Webb Space Telescope has captured never-before-seen images of a star in its rare Wolf-Rayet phase, providing valuable insights for astronomers. The star, WR 124, is located 15,000 light-years away and is 30 times the mass of the Sun.
The James Webb Space Telescope, which was launched in late 2021, used its sensitive Near-Infrared Camera to balance the brightness of WR 124’s stellar core and the fainter surrounding gas.
The mid-infrared instrument also revealed the clumpy structure of the gas and dust nebula surrounding the star.
The Wolf-Rayet phase is a brief, turbulent time of transformation that only occurs with some stars and normally is the last step before they explode, going supernova.
Webb’s detailed observations of this rare phase are valuable to astronomers because massive stars race through their lifecycles, and only some of them go through the Wolf-Rayet phase.
The Hubble Space Telescope previously captured an image of WR 124, but the James Webb Space Telescope provided more detailed observations, with the star shimmering in purple like a cherry blossom.
The cast-off material once comprised the star’s outer layer, and the star has shed 10 suns’ worth of material so far.
Scientists believe that stars like WR 124 serve as an analog to help them understand a crucial period in the early history of the universe.
Similar dying stars first seeded the young universe with heavy elements forged in their cores, which are now common in the current era, including on Earth.
The detailed image of WR 124 captured by the James Webb Space Telescope preserves a turbulent time of transition and provides a foundation for future discoveries that will unveil the mysteries of cosmic dust that have been shrouded for a long time.
The James Webb Space Telescope continues to deliver groundbreaking discoveries, and its observations of WR 124 are just the beginning of what it can achieve.
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