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The James Webb Space Telescope has captured a Wolf-Rayet star. Prelude to a supernova

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The Wolf-Rayet star WR 124 was captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. This rarely observed celestial body is a transitional stage between a classical star and a supernova. Tracking it will allow scientists to better understand the processes that accompany the death of stars and what remains of them.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) allows you to look into different corners of the Universe. One of the first celestial bodies his lens turned to in 2022 was the star WR 124 in the constellation Arrow. This object, 15 thousand light years away from us, hides a dark secret – it is close to death.

The results of the analysis of the data collected so far – and stunning photos – have just been published by the European Space Agency (ESA).

A bright, massive star

WR 124 is a Wolf-Rayet star. This term describes a celestial body that is likely the final stage of life for a massive star (30 times the mass of our Sun) just before it goes supernova. A characteristic feature of Wolf-Rayet stars is that they eject material with great force. The gas recedes and cools, creating a halo of dust and gas, clearly visible in the image below. So far, WR 124 has expelled material weighing as much as 10 suns.

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The image was taken in infrared using the NIRCam and MIRI instruments. Scientists explain that the use of this method allowed to balance the brightness of the stellar core of WR 124 – Wolf-Rayet stars are among the brightest objects in the Universe. Thanks to this procedure, astronomers can see the detailed structure of the gas and dust nebula surrounding the celestial body.

WR 124 in the lens of JWSTESA/Webb

The end and the beginning

JWST captured the moment of the star’s impending “death”, but astronomers are particularly interested in the dust surrounding it. It is an integral part of the functioning of the universe. It is a shelter for forming stars, contributes to the formation of planets. Mysteriously, there is more such dust in the universe than current theories about its formation can explain.

Capturing WR 124 during this period of its existence is unique for another reason. Not all massive stars go through a brief Wolf-Rayet phase before becoming a supernova.

Researchers hope that with the detailed data from JWST they will be able to explain further mysteries of these bright, unstable stars.

European Space Agency, tvnmeteo.pl

Main photo source: ESA/Webb

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