Webb is rarely seen as a precursor to a supernova

Webb is rarely seen as a precursor to a supernova

A large, bright star shines from the center with smaller stars scattered throughout the image. A lumpy cloud of material surrounds the central star, with more material above and below than on the sides, allowing in some places the background stars to see through. The cloud material is yellow near the star. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team

The Wolf-Rayet Star is a rare prequel to a massive star’s famous final chapter: the supernova. As one of its first observations of 2022, the NASA/ESA/Canadian Space Agency (James Webb) Space Telescope has captured Wolf Rite star WR 124 in unprecedented detail. The distinctive halo of gas and dust surrounds the star and glows in infrared light detected by Webb, displaying a complex structure and a history of episodic eruptions.

Despite being the scene of imminent stellar death, astronomers also look to Wolf-Rayet stars to identify new beginnings. Cosmic soil In the turbulent nebulae surrounding these stars, the dust that makes up the heavy elements is the building blocks of the modern universe, including life on Earth.

The rare sight of a Wolf-Rayet star—among the brightest, most massive, and most briefly detectable—was one of the first observations by the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope. Webb displays the star WR 124 in unprecedented detail using powerful infrared instruments. The star is 15,000 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius.

Credit: ESA Webb

Huge stars race through life cyclesNot all of them go through a brief Wolf-Rayet phase before becoming supernovae, which makes Webb’s detailed observations valuable to astronomers. Wolf-Rayet stars are in the process of shedding their outer layers, producing distinct halos of gas and dust.

The star WR 124 is 30 times the mass of the sun and has shed 10 suns worth of material — so far. As the ejected gas moves away from the star and cools, cosmic dust Shapes and shines in infrared light It can be detected by Webb.

Webb is rarely seen as a precursor to a supernova

A large, bright cloud of yellow, pink, and purple surrounds the white star that looks like a small snowflake. Some small stars appear with a blue background. Dark vacuoles break up the cloud, and small bright areas on the upper and lower left appear like clusters of tadpoles swimming toward the central star. There are regions where clumps of bright, hot material are blown outward by the star, like hair flowing behind someone standing in front of a fan. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team

The origin of the cosmic dust that can withstand a supernova explosion and contribute to the overall “dust budget” of the universe is of great interest to astronomers for many reasons. Dust is an integral part of the workings of the universe: it sustains the formation of stars, clumps together to help form planets, and serves as a platform for molecules to form and clump together—including the building blocks of life on Earth. Despite the many essential roles dust plays, there is still more dust in the universe than astronomers’ current theories of dust composition can explain. The universe is running on dust budget surplus.

Webb opens up new possibilities for studying details in cosmic dust, which are best observed at infrared wavelengths of light. Webb’s near infrared camera (NIRCam) balances the brightness of WR 124’s stellar core and the intricate detail in the faint surrounding gas.

Credit: ESA Webb

The telescope’s medium infrared instrument (MIRI) reveals the clumpy structure of gas and dust surrounding the star. Before Webb, dust-loving astronomers did not have enough detailed information to explore questions of dust production in environments like WR 124, and whether this dust is of sufficient size and quantity to survive and make a significant contribution to the overall dust budget. Now these questions can be investigated with real data.

Stars like WR 124 also act as analogues to help astronomers understand a crucial period in the early history of the universe. Dying stars like this have seeded the young universe with constituent heavy elements in its core – elements that are now common in the present era, including on Earth.

Credit: ESA Webb

Webb’s detailed image of WR 124 forever preserves a turbulently short metamorphosis time, promising future discoveries that will reveal the secrets of the cosmic dust that has long shrouded it.

Introduction of
European Space Agency

the quote: Webb captures a rarely seen prelude of a supernova (2023, March 14) Retrieved March 14, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-03-webb-captures-rarely-prelude-supernova.html

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