untitled design

New images reveal Ring Nebula in unprecedented detail

The James Webb Space Telescope has revealed new color portraits of the iconic Ring Nebula.

The new images capture the intricate details of the planetary nebula, an enormous cloud of cosmic gas and dust that harbors the remnants of a dying star.

The two images were taken at different wavelengths of infrared light, invisible to the human eye, using instruments at the space observatory. Webb previously captured a different perspective of the Ring Nebula, as well as the similar-looking Southern Ring Nebula.

A longtime favorite of astronomers, the Ring Nebula has been studied for years for its observability and the insight it can provide into the lives of stars. It is located in the constellation Lyra, more than 2,000 light-years from Earth, but on clear nights during summer, skywatchers using binoculars can see it.

Planetary nebulae, which have nothing to do with planets despite their name, usually have a round structure and got their name because they initially resembled the disks from which planets form when French astronomer Charles Messier first discovered them. in 1764.

Messier and astronomer Darquier de Pellepoix discovered the Ring Nebula in 1779.

Some nebulae are stellar nurseries where stars are born. The Ring Nebula was created when a dying star, called a white dwarf, began to shed its outer layers into space, creating glowing rings and expanding clouds of gas.

“As a final goodbye, the hot core now ionizes, or heats, this expelled gas, and the nebula responds with a colored emission of light,” wrote Roger Wesson, an astronomer at Cardiff University, in a NASA blog post about the latest Webb’s observations of the Ring Nebula. “This raises the question: How does a spherical star create such complex and delicate non-spherical structures?”

The Nebula Arch Ministry

Wesson and his international team, called ESSENcE, which stands for Evolved StarS and their Nebulae in the JWST Eraused Webb’s near-infrared camera and mid-infrared instrument to capture unprecedented detail that could help them understand more about how planetary nebulae evolve over time.

“The nebula’s iconic glowing ring structure is composed of about 20,000 individual clumps of dense molecular hydrogen gas, each as massive as Earth,” Wesson wrote. Outside the ring are prominent spiky features pointing away from the dying star, which glow in infrared light but were only dimly visible in earlier Hubble Space Telescope images.

The team believes the spikes are from molecules that form in the ring’s dense shadows.

Images taken with the Mid-Infrared instrument, also called MIRI, provided a sharp, clear view of a faint halo outside the ring.

“A startling revelation was the presence of up to ten regularly spaced concentric features within this faint halo,” Wesson wrote.

Initially, the team thought that the observed arcs formed as the central star shed its outer layers over time. But thanks to Webb’s sensitivity, scientists now believe that something else may be responsible for the arcs within the halo.

“When a single star evolves into a planetary nebula, there is no process that we know of that has this kind of time period,” Wesson wrote. “Instead, these rings suggest that there must be a companion star in the system, orbiting as far from the central star as Pluto is from our Sun. As the dying star sheds its atmosphere, the companion star shaped the flux and flow. carved.”

Source: CNN Brasil

You may also like

Most popular