James Webb captured an image of a star in Wolf-Rayet, a rare and fleeting phase of a star on the verge of death.
A massive star ends its days as a supernova. Before then, some go through a brief stage called Wolf-Rayet (WR) that is difficult to observe, but the James Webb Space Telescope has managed to do so in unprecedented detail.
The star is WR124, located 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius, thirty times the mass of the Sun, and has so far shed material equivalent to ten Suns. In the eyes of James Webb it appears as an explosion of golden, pink and lilac colors of cosmic gas and dust.
A beautiful, but chilling photograph
The infrared light in which the telescope observes allows us to see the characteristic halo of gas and dust that frames the star, showing a knobby structure and a history of episodic ejections, NASA said in a statement.
Despite being the scene of imminent stellar “death,” astronomers also look to Wolf-Rayet stars for new beginnings, as cosmic dust, which is made up of the heavy elements, forms in the turbulent nebulae that surround them. that constitute the modern Universe.
During the Wolf-Rayet phase, which will give way to a supernova, the star sheds its outer layers, giving rise to its characteristic halos of gas and dust. But this is a very short period and not all stars pass through it, so the new observations are very valuable to astronomers.
Now it will be a supernova
As the ejected gas moves away from the star and cools, cosmic dust is formed, which can survive a supernova explosion. That dust is an integral part of how the Universe works, harboring stars in the making, coming together to help form planets, and serving as a platform for molecules, including the building blocks of life on Earth, to form and assemble.