Two stars come together every 8 years to cause fiery ripples in space #Space #NASA
A new image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals a remarkable cosmic sight: at least 17 concentric dust rings emanating from a pair of stars. Located just over 5,000 light-years from Earth, the duo is collectively known as Wolf-Rayet 140.
Each ring was created when the two stars came close together and their stellar winds (streams of gas they blow into space) met, compressing the gas and forming dust. The stars’ orbits bring them together about once every eight years; like the growth of rings of a tree’s trunk, the dust loops mark the passage of time.
“We’re looking at over a century of dust production from this system,” said Ryan Lau, an astronomer at NSF’s NOIRLab and lead author of a new study about the system, published today in the journal Nature Astronomy. “The image also illustrates just how sensitive this telescope is. Before, we were only able to see two dust rings, using ground-based telescopes. Now we see at least 17 of them.”
A Wolf-Rayet star is an O-type star, born with at least 25 times more mass than our Sun, that is nearing the end of its life, when it will likely collapse and form a black hole. Burning hotter than in its youth, a Wolf-Rayet star generates powerful winds that push huge amounts of gas into space. The Wolf-Rayet star in this particular pair may have shed more than half its original mass via this process.
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