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A Dusty Fingerprint in Space

A Dusty Fingerprint in Space

A Dusty Fingerprint in Space

An image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows a bright dot at the center of star-filled black space. The bright dot is actually two stars meeting, as their orbits bring them together every 8 years. The stellar pair are surrounded by 17 rings of gas and dust that appear orangish gray. The rings have a slight rectangular shape and are very clear and defined starting at about 1 o’clock on a clockface. The rings start to break up a bit to our view traveling clockwise around the image. As you arrive at the 12:40 position, only parts of about six rings can be seen as they disappear from view.ALT

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. Just 5,300 light-years from Earth, the star duo are 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) collided so forcefully that some of the gas was compressed into dust. The stars’ orbits bring them together about once every eight years, and forms a half-shell of dust that looks like a ring from our perspective. Like a cosmic fingerprint, the 17 rings reveal more than a century of stellar interactions—and the “fingerprint” belonging to Wolf-Rayet 140 may be equally unique. Other Wolf-Rayet stars produce dust, but no other pair are known to produce rings quite like Wolf-Rayet 140.

Learn more about Wolf-Rayet 140.

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