The James Webb Space Telescope captured mysterious concentric rings round a distant star that astronomers are nonetheless working to elucidate.
The picture, taken in July, was released on Twitter by citizen scientist Judy Schmidt, prompting a torrent of feedback and head-scratching. It exhibits a star often known as WR140 surrounded by common ripple-like circles that regularly fade away. The circles, nonetheless, aren’t completely spherical, however have a considerably square-like really feel to them, prompting speculations about doable alien origins.
“I think it’s just nature doing something that is simple, but when we look at it from only one viewpoint it seems impossible, at first, to understand that it is a natural phenomenon,” Schmidt advised Space.com in an electronic mail. “Why is it shaped the way it is? Why is it so regular?”
Mark McCaughrean, an interdisciplinary scientist within the James Webb Space Telescope Science Working Group and a science advisor to the European Space Agency, known as the function “bonkers” in a Twitter thread.
“The six-pointed blue structure is an artifact due to optical diffraction from the bright star WR140 in this #JWST MIRI image,” he wrote. “But red curvy-yet-boxy stuff is real, a series of shells around WR140. Actually in space. Around a star.”
He famous that WR140 is what astronomers name a Wolf-Rayet star, which have spat a lot of their hydrogen into space. These objects are additionally surrounded by dust, he added, which a companion star is sculpting into the unusual shells.
Astronomers will know extra quickly due to a scientific paper at the moment underneath evaluation about this mysterious phenomenon.
“Yes, those nested ‘squircular’ rings are real,” Ryan Lau, an astronomer at NOIRLab and principal investigator of the mission that acquired the observations, replied to the Twitter thread. “Our paper on this has been submitted so please stay tuned for the full story.”
WR140, situated some 5,600 light-years away from Earth within the constellation Cygnus, is a so-called variable star that periodically dims and brightens. Whether the star’s variability has something to do with the mysterious ripples stays to be seen.
The picture, nonetheless, demonstrates the facility of the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope, essentially the most highly effective observatory ever despatched to space, which has been hailed for its revolutionary infrared imaginative and prescient and superkeen eye.