Mysterious Rings in Webb’s New Picture Puzzle Astronomers

Mysterious Rings in Webb’s New Picture Puzzle Astronomers
Mysterious Rings in Webb’s New Picture Puzzle Astronomers

The James Webb Space Telescope has captured mysterious concentric rings around a distant star that astronomers are still trying to explain.

The image, taken in July, was

by citizen scientist Judy Schmidt, sparking a torrent of commentary and puzzlement. It shows a star known as WR140 surrounded by regular wave-like circles that gradually fade. The circles, however, are not perfectly round, but have a somewhat square feel, prompting speculation of possible extraterrestrial origins.

“I think it’s just nature doing something simple, but when you look at it from one point of view, it seems impossible, at first, to understand that it is a natural phenomenon. ,” Schmidt told Space.com in an email. “Why is it shaped the way it is? Why is it so regular?”

Related: Marvel at the largest image of the cosmos from the James Webb Space Telescope to date

Mark McCaughrean, Interdisciplinary Scientist at James Webb Space Telescope Science Working Group and a science adviser to the European Space Agency, called the feature “bonkers” in a

.

“The blue six-point structure is an artifact due to optical diffraction from the bright star WR140 in this JWST MIRI image,” he wrote. “But the curved but square red thing is 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, which a companion star carves into the strange shells.

Astronomers will soon know more thanks to a scientific article currently being studied on this mysterious phenomenon.

“Yes, these interlocking ‘squircular’ rings are real,” said Ryan Lau, an astronomer at NOIRLab and the project’s principal investigator who acquired the observations.

the Twitter feed. “Our article on this has been submitted, so stay tuned for the full story.”

WR140, located at some 5,600 Light years far from Earth in the constellation Cygnus is a so-called variable star that periodically darkens and brightens. Whether the star’s variability has anything to do with the mysterious ripples remains to be seen.

The image, however, demonstrates the power of the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful observatory ever sent into space, which has been hailed for its groundbreaking infrared vision and super-sharp eye.

Follow Tereza Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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