The James Webb Space Telescope captured mysterious concentric rings around a distant star that astronomers are still trying to explain.
The photo, taken in July, was
by citizen scientist Judy Schmidt, sparking a flurry of comments and headaches. It shows a released on Twitter star known as WR140 surrounded by regular wrinkle-like circles that gradually fade. However, the circles are not perfectly round, but feel somewhat square, prompting speculation about possible alien origins.
“I think it’s just nature doing something simple, but if we look at it from just one point of view, it seems impossible at first to understand that it’s a natural phenomenon,” Schmidt told Space.com in an email. -mail. “Why is it formed the way it is? Why is it so regular?”
Related: Marvel at the largest image of the cosmos yet with the James Webb Space Telescope
Mark McCaughrean, an interdisciplinary scientist in the
James Webb Space Telescope Science Working Group and a scientific advisor to the European Space Agency, called the position “bonkers” in a . Twitter thread
“The six-pointed blue structure is an artifact due to optical diffraction from the bright star WR140 in this #JWST MIRI image,” he wrote. “But red, round yet boxy things are real, a series of shells around WR140. Actually in space. Around a star.”
He noted that WR140 is what astronomers call a Wolf-Rayet star, which has spewed much of its hydrogen into space. These objects are also surrounded by dust, he added, that sculpts a companion star into the strange shells.
Astronomers will soon know more thanks to a scientific paper currently being reviewed about this mysterious phenomenon.
“Yes, those nested ‘squircular’ rings are real,” Ryan Lau, an astronomer at NOIRLab and principal investigator on the project that acquired the observations,
the Twitter thread. “Our paper on this has been submitted, so stay tuned for the full story.” replied to
WR140, located at approximately 5,600
light years away from Earth in the constellation Cygnus, is a so-called variable star that periodically dims and brightens. Whether the star’s variability has anything to do with the mysterious ripples remains to be seen.
However, the image shows the power of the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful observatory ever sent to space, praised for its revolutionary infrared vision and super-sharp eye.
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