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James Webb Telescope Captures a Wolf-Rayet Star in a Rarely Seen Prelude to a Supernova

Posted by Guy Pirro 03/24/2023 12:24AM

James Webb Telescope Captures a Wolf-Rayet Star in a Rarely Seen Prelude to a Supernova

The rare sight of a Wolf-Rayet star – among the most luminous, most massive, and most briefly detectable stars known – was one of the first observations made by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope in June 2022. Webb showed the star, WR 124, in unprecedented detail with its powerful infrared instruments. The star is 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagitta. As massive stars progress through their lifecycles, only some of them pass through a brief Wolf-Rayet phase before going supernova. This makes Webb’s detailed observations of this rare phase valuable to astronomers. Stars like WR 124 help astronomers understand a crucial period in the early history of the Universe because similar dying stars first seeded the young Universe with heavy elements forged in their cores – elements that are now common in the current era, including on Earth.


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