The James Webb Telescope Finds a “Fingerprint” in the Night Sky

17 October 22

The James Webb telescope is catching some amazing, never-before-seen events in the vastness of space — a giant “fingerprint” in the sky.

This is not science fiction but rather an unusual cosmic event. Two giant stars pass so close to each other along their orbits that the solar winds from the stars collide compressing the emitted gas into dust. The dust then gets inflated in the stellar wind, forming a large ring.

This happens every 8 years. These stars are known collectively as the Wolf-Rayet 140 binary. Each time the stars pass close to each other another ring is added to the “cosmic fingerprint”. The fingerprint consists of 17 centered rings.

This cosmic event is happening 5,000 light years away from earth. The “fingerprint” structure was created over 130 years. The ring structure takes up more space than the solar system.

The 2-star system is comprised of a Wolf-Rayet star which has at least 25 times more mass than the Sun and an even bigger blue supergiant star. The Wolf-Rayet star is nearing the end of its stellar lifecycle and burns much hotter than it would have when it was “younger”.

While burning hotter, the star generates huge winds, which push huge amounts of gas into space. It is believed that this star has already lost more than half of its original mass. 

The wind from both stars then meet and compress the emitted gas into dust, which is then inflated into rings. Like examining the rings in a tree trunk, scientists can precisely predict the age of this phenomena.

The observations made studying this cosmic event could help astronomers understand how after the Big Bang the first generation of stars seeded their surroundings with matter to create subsequent generations of stars.

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