NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has captured a rare image of WR 124, a star located in the constellation Sagittarius that is about to go nova. The star, which is located approximately 15,000 light years away from Earth, is going through a Wolf-Rayet phase, a transition that only some massive stars undergo before they eventually explode. This phase involves shedding material, and in the case of WR 124, NASA estimates that it has already shed about 10 times the mass of the Sun.
The JWST’s capture of WR 124 is significant because it could help astronomers answer longstanding questions about the universe. Cosmic dust, which is created when the gas expelled by Wolf-Rayet stars cools, is an essential building block of the universe. It is involved in the formation of coalescing stars and even planets. However, the amount of cosmic dust in the universe is currently not fully understood, and there is no theory that explains it.
The JWST could help astronomers study cosmic dust by providing detailed information on its production in environments like WR 124. This could help scientists understand whether the dust grains are large and bountiful enough to survive the supernova and become a significant contribution to the overall dust budget.
NASA’s capture of WR 124 using the JWST is a significant achievement for the scientific community. It will provide astronomers with new insights into the life cycle of massive stars and the creation of cosmic dust, which could ultimately help us better understand the universe.