Nasa's James Webb telescope spies star on the verge of exploding into supernova
The James Webb Space Telescope has spotted a rare and tumultuous sight 15,000 light-years away from Earth. The space observatory captured an image of a Wolf-Rayet star called WR 124 in the Sagittarius constellation. Wolf-Rayet stars are some of the most luminous and massive stars in the universe. Some stars briefly become a Wolf-Rayet before they explode in a supernova, so it’s rare for astronomers to spot them. The stars burn through their fuel, then they release their outer layers in rings of gas and dust. Then, they explode. The Webb telescope glimpsed WR 124 during some of its first scientific observations in June 2022. The new image reveals unprecedented details in infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye. The Wolf-Rayet star observed by Webb is 30 times the mass of our sun. So far, WR 124 has shed about 10 suns’ worth of material, creating the cool, glowing gas and cosmic dust seen in the image. Cosmic dust across the universe swirls together with gas to form stars and planets. Astronomers are trying to understand why there is more dust in the universe than their theories can explain. Studying WR 124 helps astronomers understand the early days of the universe when dying stars began exploding.