October 2, 2023

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A mesmerizing image showing the living death of a doomed star: ScienceAlert

A mesmerizing image showing the living death of a doomed star: ScienceAlert

A dying star shines like gold in new images from the James Webb Space Telescope.

It’s called Messier 57, AKA the Ring Nebulaa glowing circle of gas in the constellation of Lyra, some 2750 light years away from Earth, caused by the ejection of matter by a low-mass star as it dies. JWST’s amazing resolution will reveal complex knots and patterns in this material, to help better understand what happens when stars like the Sun reach the end of their lives.

“We are witnessing the final chapters of the star’s life, and a preview of the sun’s distant future so to speak, and the JWST observations have opened a new window to understanding these amazing cosmic events,” explains astrophysicist Mike Barlow from University College London in the UK, and co-leader of the international JWST Ring Nebula Project.

“We can use the Ring Nebula as our laboratory to study how planetary nebulae form and evolve.”

The new image was acquired in August 2022 using JWST’s NIRCam. (NASA, ESA, CSA, JWST Ring Nebula Team photo; image processing by Roger WessonO)

a Planetary nebula It has nothing to do with the planets. They are named that way because they are Astronomers in the eighteenth century I thought its round shape looked like a planet. It’s actually bigger and more dynamic: the clouds of material surrounding the stars are smaller than eight solar masses at the end of their lives.

When they run out of material to fuse in their cores, these stars destabilize and expel all of their outer matter. The stellar core, no longer supported by the outward pressure of the merger, collapses under the influence of gravity to become a white dwarf. This is the sun’s final fate Most of the stars are in the Milky Way.

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Details show the intricate clumps in the outer envelope of the Ring Nebula. (NASA, ESA, CSA, JWST Ring Nebula Team photo; image processing by Roger Wesson)

The Ring Nebula was created by a star that reached the end of fusion sometime in the last two thousand years from our perspective. In its center is a white dwarf around it 60% of the mass of the Sun; The material around this star is expanding outward into space in a ball that looks like a ring filled with glowing matter.

The nebula’s outer envelope is thick and dusty, sculpted into complex structures as it penetrates and interacts with the interstellar medium. Studying these structures can help scientists understand the physical processes involved in the shape and expansion of a planetary nebula; JWST has provided amazing details.

“The James Webb Space Telescope has provided us with an extraordinary view of the Ring Nebula that we have not seen before,” says Barlow. “The high-resolution images not only display the intricate details of the nebula’s expanding crust, but also reveal the inner region around the central white dwarf with remarkable clarity.”

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The data is still being analyzed, but the observations are already revealing something unexpected complication That the team is excited to delve into it. In addition to the amazing details revealed in the structure of the mantle, the observations also provided a wealth of data on the formation of the nebula, Including carbon-based macromolecules whose origin is currently unclear.

“These images hold more than just aesthetic appeal; they provide a wealth of scientific insights into the processes of stellar evolution,” says astrophysicist Nick Cox ACRI-ST in France, and co-leader of the JWST Ring Nebula project.

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“By studying the Ring Nebula with JWST, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of the life cycles of stars and the elements they release into the universe.”