The star visible in the nebula’s center is called WR 124, in reference to the “Wolf-Rayet” phase: this is the relatively rare phase at the end of a star’s life, during which it has exhausted its primary activity. The fuel – hydrogen – begins to burn heavy chemical elements. It creates powerful bursts of energy, ejecting layers after layers of the star’s matter: hence this expanding nebula of gas and dust all around it.
Astronomers estimate That what was expelled is already 10 times the mass of our Sun. Eventually, this hyperactive phase will end in a massive explosion: a supernova.
The nebula, called Mi-67, is about 6 light-years across. Given the rate at which it is growing, this places the beginning of this stage around 20,000 years ago. However, the Wolf-Rayet phase is short, at least from a cosmological standpoint: a few million years at most.
This gas and dust is what astronomers call “stardust”: these heavy chemical elements of WR 124, one day, will contribute to creation Other stars, there are planets in them, and who knows, maybe living beings. Notice how Fragments of the next times moving through the Mi-67 nebula could be at the peak of James Webb’s infrared camera capabilities. Before this telescope already, note Press release From NASA, “dust-loving astronomers” had no way of gathering information about “dust production in environments like WR 124”.
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