NASA’s Webb Space Telescope captured the rare and brief phase of a star in the constellation Sagittarius before it died and emerged as a supernova.
The image, released Tuesday at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, shows the Wolf-Rayet star in unprecedented detail, casting a shimmering purple halo as it exhales gas. As gas moves away from the star, it cools, and cosmic dust forms and glows in infrared light that can be detected by Webb, According to NASA.
Massive stars only race through their life cycles some of them It undergoes a short Wolf-Rayet phase before going supernova, which makes Webb’s detailed observations of this rare phase valuable to astronomers,” the space agency said in a statement.
The image is celebrated for its ability to shed more light on the origins of constellations, planets, and the universe as a whole.
“What a show like this depicts are the star’s final moments, which are really important in terms of stellar evolution and how the elements that make life possible, like, actually form,” according to CBS News space analyst Bill Harwood. “[Webb’s] Being able to see things like the Wolf-Rayet star in unprecedented detail really does promise great things for the future. I think he will continue to blow our minds.”
In addition, NASA said it hopes to learn more about the origin of cosmic dust that can survive a supernova explosion.
“Despite the many essential roles dust plays, there is still more dust in the universe than astronomers’ current theories of dust formation can explain,” the space agency said. “The universe is running on dust budget surplus.”
The dying star was one of the first observations made by the Webb telescope in June 2022, according to NASA.
The star, 15,000 light-years away, is 30 times more massive than our sun and has already shed enough material to account for 10 suns, according to the space agency.
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