NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Captures a Dying Star’s Last Dance

Date:15 July 2022 Author: Juandre

Its first full-colour images also show off a star-forming region and a distant patch of the universe.

this side by side comparison shows observations of the southern ring nebula in near infrared light, at left, and mid infrared light, at right, from nasa’s webb telescopethis scene was created by a white dwarf star – the remains of a star like our sun after it shed its outer layers and stopped burning fuel though nuclear fusion those outer layers now form the ejected shells all along this viewin the near infrared camera nircam image, the white dwarf appears to the lower left of the bright, central star, partially hidden by a diffraction spike the same star appears – but brighter, larger, and redder – in the mid infrared instrument miri image this white dwarf star is cloaked in thick layers of dust, which make it appear larger the brighter star in both images hasn’t yet shed its layers it closely orbits the dimmer white dwarf, helping to distribute what it’s ejectedover thousands of years and before it became a white dwarf, the star periodically ejected mass – the visible shells of material as if on repeat, it contracted, heated up – and then, unable to push out more material, pulsated stellar material was sent in all directions – like a rotating sprinkler – and provided the ingredients for this asymmetrical landscapetoday, the white dwarf is heating up the gas in the inner regions – which appear blue at left and red at right both stars are lighting up the outer regions, shown in orange and blue, respectivelythe images look very different because nircam and miri collect different wavelengths of light nircam observes near infrared light, which is closer to the visible wavelengths our eyes detect miri goes farther into the infrared, picking up mid infrared wavelengths the second star more clearly appears in the miri image, because this instrument can see the gleaming dust around it, bringing it more clearly into viewthe stars – and their layers of light – steal more attention in the nircam image, while dust plays the lead in the miri image, specifically dust that is illuminated peer at the circular region at the center of both images each contains a wobbly, asymmetrical belt of material this is where two “bowls” that make up the nebula meet in this view, the nebula is at a 40 degree angle this belt is easier to spot in the miri image – look for the yellowish circle – but is also visible in the nircam imagethe light that travels through the orange dust in the nircam image – which look like spotlights – disappear at longer infrared wavelengths in the miri imagein near infrared light, stars have more prominent diffraction spikes because they are so bright at these wavelengths in mid infrared light, diffraction spikes also appear around stars, but they are fainter and smaller zoom in to spot themphysics is the reason for the difference in the resolution of these images nircam delivers high resolution imaging because these wavelengths of light are shorter miri supplies medium resolution imagery because its wavelengths are longer – the longer the wavelength, the coarser the images are but both deliver an incredible amount of detail about every object they observe – providing never before seen vistas of the universefor a full array of webb’s first images and spectra, including downloadable files, please visit httpswebbtelescopeorgnewsfirst images nircam was built by a team at the university of arizona and lockheed martin’s advanced technology centermiri was contributed by esa and nasa, with the instrument designed and built by a consortium of nationally funded european institutes the miri european consortium in partnership with jpl and the university of arizona

NASA released the first spectacular full-colour images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) this week. The images focus on five phenomena that are visible with the powerful telescope, highlighting its capabilities and shedding new light on some interesting corners of outer space.

One of the major accomplishments in this first batch of images is a huge photo of the deep universe, meaning instead of focusing on a specific nebula or planetary system, it’s a sweeping view that includes hundreds of many-coloured and variably-shaped objects. And because of the way space works, the images from further away are many billions of years old. NASA’s Eric Smith said in a JWST press briefing on Tuesday that the depth of the image dates back 13.4 or 13.5 billion years or more.

At the briefing, a reporter asked how these images are colour treated. NASA’s Klaus Pontoppidan, a James Webb Space Telescope project scientist, explained that these images aren’t colour-treated so much as they are shifted because they are infrared-coloured in space. That means “if you had infrared eyes,” Pontoppidan explained, “this may be what you would see.” The spectrum of light visible to human eyes is small and doesn’t include infrared, despite the fact that the infrared band is much larger than the band of visible light.

starforming region ngc 3324
This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth.

Another of the major images released is of the Southern Ring Nebula (pictured at the top of this story). This is a nebula that surrounds a dying star, all of which is about 2,000 light-years from Earth. Pontoppidan said this system is like a preview of our own solar system in about 5 billion years, because the star is very similar to what the sun will eventually become. The dying star is ejecting materials in layers, instead of the way larger stars might turn supernova.

“When stars like the sun die like this by pushing out their outer layers, they seed the galaxy with elements like carbon and oxygen, that’s where a lot of it comes from that we’re made of. It’s a life cycle. This is the end for this star, but it’s the beginning for other stars and systems,” Pontoppidan explained. “What Webb allows us to do is understand that in much greater detail. It’s a turbulent flow, there’s so many clumps and structures in there. That tells you how the star manages to push out these outer layers and how the physics work so we can understand how many elements come from these objects.”

And for those interested in citizen science, well, just a glance around Twitter will show you that people are already keen to examine these images and highlight the weird little blips they see. “Humans do galaxy classification better than machines,” NASA’s Jane Rigby, operations project science for the James Webb Space Telescope, said during the press conference. “We use the humans to try to train the machines. Finding weird stuff, many of the most interesting discoveries were found by amateurs.” That’s good news for all of you zooming in as far as you can and squinting at your computer screens.



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