NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has given us some great views of the final days of a giant star.
On Tuesday, March 14, NASA released JWST images of WR 124, a rare star located about 15,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius.
“Massive stars go through their life cycle, and only some of them go through a brief wolf-analysis phase before becoming supernova, making Webb’s detailed observations of this rare phase invaluable to astronomers,” the NASA team writes in the journal Wolfe-Right. . Description of photos (Opens in a new tab)which was acquired by JWST in June 2022, after it was commissioned.
“Wolf-Rayet stars are shedding their outer layers, producing distinct halos of gas and dust,” agency officials added.
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NASA officials said WR 124 is about 30 times more massive than our sun and has so far ejected gas and dust equivalent to more than 10 solar masses into space. All this dust, as ordinary as it may sound, is very interesting to astronomers.
“Dust is an integral part of the workings of the universe: it protects the formation of stars, clumps together to help form planets, and serves as a platform for the formation and assembly of molecules — including the building blocks of life on Earth,” NASA officials wrote in the book. Image description. “Despite the many vital roles dust plays, there is still more dust in the universe than astronomers’ current theories of dust formation can explain.”
They added that the JWST’s notes could shed some light on this mysterious “dust budget surplus.” This is because cosmic dust is best studied in infrared wavelengths, which is the type of light that the JWST is optimized to monitor.
Before Webb, dust-seeking astronomers did not have enough detailed information to explore questions about dust production in environments like WR 124, and whether dust grains were large and abundant enough to survive a supernova and become a significant contributor to dust build-up. writing. “Now these questions can be investigated with real data.”
JWST launched atop a European Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana on December 25, 2021. The $10 billion observatory then moved to Earth-Sun 2 Lagrange Point, a gravitationally stable point in space about 930,000 miles (1.5 million km) away. our planet.
Until L2, which arrived in late January 2022, JWST unveiled its massive sunvisor and multi-part primary mirror, a complex broadcast sequence that had mission team members, scientists, and space enthusiasts all over the world holding their breath.
After a long series of sorties, the mission began its science campaign in June 2022, and NASA released the first JWST images a month later. The telescope is now making a wide range of potentially transformative observations, from observing some of the oldest stars and galaxies in the universe to studying the composition of atmospheres near exoplanets.
Mike Wall is the author of ” outside (Opens in a new tab)Book (Major Grand Publishers, 2018; illustration by Carl Tate), a book about the search for aliens. Follow him on Twitter @employee (Opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @employee (Opens in a new tab) or on FSpock (Opens in a new tab).