The telescope James Webb recently captured an image of a distant star appearing with strange features. The star indeed seems surrounded by concentric ripples which disappear as we move away from the star. Scientists wonder about the nature of the phenomenon.
The image in question was taken in July, and was posted by Judy Schmidt, a citizen scientist. It shows the star known as WR140 with mysterious rings around it. Also, the rings are not quite circular but have a square shape.
Judy Schmidt pointed out that it is nature that makes something simple. According to her, when you look at the image from a single point of view, you may think that it is impossible to understand that it is indeed a natural phenomenon.
The opinion of the specialists
Mark McCaughreaninterdisciplinary scientist within the Science Working Group of the Webb Telescope and scientific advisor to theESA, gave his opinion on the matter. According to him, the blue structure with six points is an artifact due to the optical diffraction of the star in this image taken by the MIRI instrument. Nevertheless, square shaped rings are real. This is a series of “shells” around WR140.
McCaughrean explained that the star WR140 is part of what astronomers call a Wolf-Rayet star. These stars have ejected most of their hydrogen into space. They are also surrounded by dust, which a nearby star “sculpts” into these strange shells.
According to the information, a scientific paper on the subject is currently being revised for publication. ryan lauastronomer at NOIRLab and principal investigator of the project who made the observations, confirmed that these square rings were real and that their article concerning the phenomenon will be published soon.
A variable star
The star WR140 is at a distance of 5,600 light years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. Astronomers call it a variable star because it periodically fades and shines. It is not yet known whether this feature of the star has anything to do with the square-shaped rings.
Let’s wait for the publication of the article by Lau and his colleagues to find out what these mysterious rings really are and how they were formed. In any case, this image once again shows the power of the Webb telescope.