The James Webb Telescope continues to send back phenomenal and beautiful images of our greater solar system. This most recent discovery has scientists enthused and confused. The telescope sent back an image in July. A star known as WR 140, a Wolf-Rayet star, is doing something bizarre. Surrounding the star are concentric rings in an almost hexagonal shape. Wolf-Rayets are stars that have expelled almost all of their hydrogen into the surrounding space. Current speculation says that the dust of this expulsion is being gravitationally influenced by another nearby star. Thus, causing this ripple around WR140. But astronomers can’t be entirely sure.
The image was posted to twitter by Judy Schmidt, a citizen scientist. Already the speculations range from the more logical — a natural phenomenon — to those of an extraterrestrial nature. “I think it’s just nature doing something that is simple, but when we look at it from only one viewpoint it seems impossible…to understand that it is a natural phenomenon.” Schmidt told Space.com. This is clearly fascinating scientists as to the why.
“Bonkers” Phenomenon, So Says Science
Mark McCaughrean, a science advisor for the European Space Agency and interdisciplinary scientist in the James Webb Space Telescope Science Working Group, weighed in. “The six-pointed blue structure is an artifact due to optical diffraction from the bright star WR140 in this #JWST MIRI image…but red curvy-yet-boxy stuff is real, a series of shells around WR140. Actually in space. Around a star.” and further stated that the phenom is just “bonkers”.
A scientific paper is currently under review by astronomers about how this is occurring and why. But it is more than enough to spark thoughts on what other wonders are waiting to be captured by JWST.