the space telescope James Webb of the POT observed, in unprecedented detail, the star Wolf-Rayet WR 124a rare prelude to the famous final act of a massive star: the supernova.
A distinctive halo of gas and dust frames the star and it shines in the infrared light detected by Webb, showing a knobby structure and a history of episodic ejections. Despite being the scene of impending stellar ‘death’, astronomers also look to Wolf-Rayet stars for new beginnings. Cosmic dust is forming in the turbulent nebulae surrounding these stars, dust that is made up of the building blocks of heavy elements of the planet. Universe modern, including life in the Land.
The rare sight of a Wolf-Rayet star, one of the brightest, most massive, and most briefly detectable stars, was one of the first observations made by the James Webb Space Telescope. The instrument shows the star WR 124 in unprecedented detail with its powerful infrared instruments. the star is 15 thousand light years away in the constellation of Sagittarius.
Massive stars race through their life cycles, and not all of them go through a brief Wolf-Rayet phase before going supernova, making Webb’s detailed observations valuable to astronomers. Wolf-Rayet stars are in the process of shedding their outer layers, resulting in their characteristic halos of gas and dust.
The star WR 124 has 30 times the mass of the Sun and has thrown material worth 10 soles, until now. As the ejected gas moves away from the star and cools, cosmic dust forms and glows in the infrared light detectable by Webb.
The origin of cosmic dust that can survive a supernova explosion and contribute to the overall “dust budget” of the Universe is of great interest to astronomers for many reasons. Dust is integral to how the Universe works: it harbors forming stars, it gathers together to help form planets, and it serves as a platform for molecules to form and clump together, including the building blocks of life on Earth. Despite the many essential roles that dust plays, there is still more dust in the Universe than can be accounted for by astronomers’ current theories of dust formation. The Universe is operating on a surplus dust budget.
Webb opens up new possibilities for studying details in cosmic dust, which is best seen at infrared wavelengths of light. Webb’s near-infrared camera (NIRCam) it balances the brightness of WR 124’s stellar core and gnarled details in the fainter surrounding gas. The mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) of the telescope reveals the lumpy structure of the nebula of gas and dust that surrounds the star.
Before Webb, dust-loving astronomers simply did not have enough detailed information to explore the questions of dust production in environments like WR 124, and whether that dust was of sufficient size and quantity to survive and make a significant contribution to the budget. Dust overall. Now those questions can be investigated with real data.
Stars like WR 124 also serve as an analogy to help astronomers understand a crucial period in the early history of the Universe. Similar dying stars seeded the young Universe with the heavy elements forged in their cores, elements that are now common in the current age, even on Earth.
Webb’s detailed image of WR 124 forever preserves a brief and turbulent transformation time, and promises future discoveries that will unlock the long-hidden mysteries of cosmic dust, ESA reports.