the space telescope james webb NASA has captured with its cameras some impressive images of the planetary nebula South Ring that have served to reveal details that until now remained hidden from astronomers.
Planetary nebulae are layers of gas and dust that are expelled by stars that have entered the dying phase. The one captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, South Ring (formally NGC 3132), is located at a distance of approximately 2,500 million light years from Earth and now we can know some specific details about it, which will allow astronomers extend what they know to understand things like what molecules are present in the layers of gas and dust.
NASA explains that this observation made with the telescope “shows the Southern Ring Nebula in an almost frontal view, but if we could rotate it to view it from the side, its three-dimensional shape would be more clearly seen as two bowls joined at their base, moving away from each other with a large hole in the center”. Within the Southern Ring are two stars that are linked in a tight orbit (that is, they orbit each other), a complex system about which we know more details thanks to the infrared cameras on James Webb.
Stars and their layers of light are prominent in the image on the left, which was taken using the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam). For the image on the right, the mid-infrared instrument has been used to discover that the second star is surrounded by dust. Extremely fine beams of light around the planetary nebula have also been revealed by NIRCam. When it comes to blocking out light, the nebula behaves similarly to the clouds we can see in Earth’s sky.since the light of the stars sprouts in greater quantity where there are holes that give it more exit.
The brightest star is at an earlier stage in its evolution and may eventually expel its own planetary nebula. Additionally, it is able to influence the appearance of the South Rim to create asymmetrical patterns due to gas and dust being churned up as it orbits with its “partner”.
Planetary nebulae are capable of existing for tens of billions of years, which is why NASA sees their observation as “watching a movie in extremely slow motion.” Additionally, each layer of material ejected by the star gives researchers the opportunity to accurately measure the gas and dust present within it. As a star releases material, dust molecules form within these layers, changing the landscape. Because it has a very long life, the dust can end up traveling for billions of years and becoming things like a new star or a new planet.
And what about the South Ring? It seems that the star that is releasing material will continue to do so and in the very distant future the released dust and gas will dissipate into space.
On the other hand, NASA has also published two images of Jupiter with the NIRCam and using two different wavelengths. In the shortest wavelength, the F212N filter has been used, while in the longest wavelength, the F323N filter has been used.
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