James Webb Telescope image of dying star helps scientists understand history of the universe
BALTIMORE -- A new image of a dying star contributing to the fabric of the universe was captured by the James Webb Telescope and released to the public on Tuesday.
The image produced by the Maryland-made spacecraft is the first observations the telescope made since June 2022.
The image is of Wolf-Rayet star, which is 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius, according to NASA staff.
The image shows unprecedented details about the star using the telescope's powerful infrared instruments, NASA staff.
Only a few massive stars go through a brief Wolf-Rayet phase before going supernova, which is a catastrophic explosion that happens when a star is in its last evolutionary phase, according to NASA staff.
Wolf-Rayet stars are in the process of casting off their outer layers, which is why they are surrounded by a halo of gas and dust, NASA staff said.
Studying the origin of cosmic dust capable of surviving a supernova blast is important to astronomers because that dust is what contributes to something known as the universe's "dust budget," according to NASA staff.
Dying stars are what first seeded the universe, NASA staff said.
Before the James Webb Telescope was built, dust-loving astronomers did not have enough detailed information about dust production in environments, according to NASA staff.
The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore is the mission operations center for the telescope. It launched last in 2021 from French Guiana.
The observatory stands about three stories tall, weighs six metric tons, and the sun shield alone is the size of a tennis court. It was built largely in Greenbelt, Md., at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
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