This Strange Image Was Captured by the James Webb Telescope

ILLUSTRATOR JWST/MIRI/JUDY SCHMIDT

Five thousand lightyears away from Earth, a cosmic spectacle unfolded before the infrared eyes of the James Webb Telescope. For the first time in history, humans captured ewhat looks like waves of light emanating from a central source. The celestial object at the center of the image is actually a massve star called Wolf-Rayet Star. These types of stars are so rare, astronomers estimate there are only a thousand stars of this kind in the galaxy. 

But the rings around it are caused by another giant in the path of its orbit. 

Photo by JWST/MIRI/Judy Schmidt.

The Wolf-Rayet Star is part of a binary system of stars, meaning it shares its piece of space with another star, affecting each other’s orbits. The binary star system is called WR 140. Once the two stars pass close to each other, their solar winds collide, causing what appears as a massive shock wave seen in the image. 

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Below is an animation of the process. 

Photo by NASA, ESA, Joseph Olmsted/STScI.

Up to 20 rings are seen in the picture imaged by the telescope and processed by Judy Schmidt. According to Science Alert, the rings represent 160 years’ worth of dust shells or collisions of the two stars’ solar winds.

 

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