Astronomers have captured a stunning image of 17 concentric dust rings resembling a cosmic footprint in the most recent one Notes From the James Webb Space Telescope.
The formation was created by the interaction of two giant stars, collectively known as the Wolf-Rayet 140 binary, more than 5,000 light-years from Earth. The rings are created every eight years when stars pass close to each other in their long orbit. As they approach, the solar winds coming from the stars collide, causing the gas flowing from the stars to compress into dust.
Professor Peter Tuthill of the Sydney Institute said: astronomy at the University of Sydney, co-author of the study. “Eight years later, when the duo returns to orbit, another ring appears, like the previous one, flowing into space inside the bubble of the previous ring, like a group of giant interlocking Russian dolls.”
The 17-ring structure was produced over a period of about 130 years and spans an area of space larger than our solar system.
The WR140 binary consists of a massive star Wolf-Rayet and a much larger blue giant star. Wolf-Wright was born with a mass at least 25 times that of our Sun and is a star nearing the end of its stellar life cycle. The Wolf-Rayet star, which burns much hotter than it did in its youth, generates strong winds that push huge amounts of gas into space – it is believed that those in this duo lost at least half of their original mass through this process.
When carbon and heavy elements are blown into space, they are compressed at the boundary where the winds from both stars meet.
Dr Olivia Jones, Webb Fellow at the UK Astronomy Technology Center and co-author of the study said: “The winds from the other star sweep the gas into lanes, and you have enough material close together that it condenses into dust.” “Not only is this an amazing picture but this rare phenomenon is revealing new clues about cosmic dust and how it can survive in the harsh environments of space.”
Jones said the latest observations could provide new insights into how the first generation of stars infused their surroundings with dust and gas, giving rise to later generations of stars in the early universe.
The results were published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
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