Webb Telescope Discovers Secret Star Hubble Overlooked

webb telescope discovers secret star hubble overlooked.jpg Science

Astounding new findings from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have revealed intricate structures within the Ring Nebula, a dying star situated 2,200 light-years away in the constellation Lyra. The telescope’s advanced infrared imaging has detected a level of complexity within the nebula that was previously undetected by its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope. The nebula’s core houses a white dwarf, an elderly star similar to our sun, which has expelled its outer layers, creating a vibrant ring composed of 20,000 hydrogen gas clumps, each with a mass equivalent to our planet.

The images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope have left astronomers stunned by the level of detail they expose. These images not only provide a mesmerizing view of the nebula but also offer vital clues that could help unravel the mysteries surrounding the formation and complexity of nebulae. Astronomer Roger Wesson points out that planetary nebulae like the Ring Nebula were once thought to be simple and round, with a single dying star at the center. However, modern observations reveal a breathtaking complexity, prompting questions about how a spherical star creates such intricate and delicate non-spherical structures.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Uncovers a New Detail in the Ring Nebula

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has achieved yet another scientific feat. It has spotted a detail in the Ring Nebula that the Hubble Space Telescope missed. The discovery of a potential companion star could explain the mystery of the dying star’s unusual rings, another example of a planetary nebula’s "breathtaking complexity," according to astronomer Roger Wesson.

A Deeper Look into the Ring Nebula

The Ring Nebula, an oblong-donut-shaped planetary nebula located in the constellation Lyra, is a dying star shedding its outer layers one by one from 2,200 light-years away. The bright ring enveloping it consists of 20,000 clumps of hydrogen gas, each weighing about as much as our planet. At its core lies a white dwarf, an ancient star similar to our sun but has depleted all its fuel.

In comparison to the Hubble’s 2013 image, Webb’s infrared gaze revealed a much more detailed image of the Ring Nebula’s outer layers and the light spikes shooting out into space. "When we first saw the images, we were stunned by the amount of detail in them," Wesson, an astronomy research associate at Cardiff University, said.

Unraveling the Mystery of Nebulae

Webb’s new images not only provide a more detailed view but also offer critical clues in solving a long-standing mystery about nebulae. "Planetary nebulae were once thought to be simple, round objects with a single dying star at the center. Modern observations, though, show that most planetary nebulae display breathtaking complexity," Wesson said.

The answer to this complexity may lie in the presence of another hidden star within the nebula. This star’s gravity, though possibly not very massive, would influence the dying star at the center of the nebula, adding complexity to the physics of its outer layers ejecting into space.

Webb’s Infrared Photo Reveals Arcs Outside the Main Ring

In the outer edges of the main ring, the Webb image detected about 10 concentric arcs, evenly spaced and each possibly formed every 280 years as the central star discarded its outer layers. Scientists speculate that the dying star couldn’t have created them on its own.

The presence of the companion star could have helped shape the shed atmosphere into the arcs. If confirmed, this companion star would be about the same distance from the dying star as Earth is from Pluto. "No previous telescope had the sensitivity and the spatial resolution to uncover this subtle effect," Wesson explained.


This recent achievement of the James Webb Space Telescope underscores its superiority over its predecessor, Hubble, in terms of sensitivity and spatial resolution. It also highlights the increasingly complex nature of planetary nebulae, which may necessitate the reevaluation of previous theories and offer new directions for future astronomical research. The discovery of a potential companion star within the Ring Nebula, if confirmed, could provide an essential key to unlocking the mysteries of these fascinating celestial objects.

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