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The James Webb Space Telescope images a rare supernova precursor

The James Webb Space Telescope images a rare supernova precursor

Shortly after its commissioning, the James Webb Space Telescope photographed a massive star undergoing its final stage before its final supernova. The so-called Wolf-Rayet star, called WR 124, can be seen in the image amid gas and dust, matter glowing in infrared light. This material is of particular interest to astronomers because it can help clarify the question of why there is more dust in the universe than could be explained by previous theories. At the same time, stars are relatively rare at this stage in their evolution, which makes observation especially valuable.

how European Space AgencyMassive stars go through different stages of evolution at relatively high speeds. Not everyone ejects large amounts of material into their surroundings before they’re done, exposing their core in the process. Those that do are called Wolf-Rayet stars, after two French astronomers. Matter drifts away from the star, cooling as it does and glowing in the visible infrared spectrum of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The WR 124 is a particularly well known example, It was actually photographed with the Hubble Space Telescope. The star has about 30 solar masses and has already released 10 solar masses of material.

This dust around WR 124 not only looks particularly beautiful on the photo, but is also of great interest for research. As the European Space Agency states, this dust is essential to the functioning of the universe. They are home to star formation, form the central basis for planet formation, and serve as raw materials for the formation of molecules—including the building blocks of life. But a big mystery remains: To date, more dust has been found in the universe than can be explained by existing theories. Thanks to the new observation, one can now determine whether stars like WR 124 contribute significantly to the dust content of the universe.

The James Webb Space Telescope is operated by the space agencies NASA, ESA, and CSA and was launched on December 25, 2021. After a complex procedure of self-detection, it reached the L2 Lagrange point a month later. Here he looks away from the Sun, Earth and Moon into space so that their heat radiation does not disturb the infrared telescope. A huge protective screen prevents them. Since the scientific work began, the quality of the data has not only affected the scientific community.


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