NASA’s James Webb Telescope Captures Strange Dust Rings

by Megan Molseed
(Getty Images/STEFANI REYNOLDS / Contributor)

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured an unusual image of a set of nested dust plumes. According to the experts, the strange dust rings are likely created by what can be described as violent interactions between two stars. The image is the latest in NASA’s efforts in researching how intense light from the stars can push matter around in space. Scientists are using the James Webb Space Telescope to research these points by focusing on the Cygnus constellation. This constellation is a double-star system that is located 5,000 light years away from the Earth.

Every Few Years The Stars Move Close Together Causing Massive Dust Plumes

The study has uncovered a situation in which stars in the Cygnus constellation are moving toward each other for over eight years. When the stars come close enough together, they release dust plumes. These plumes can stretch thousands of times farther than the sun’s distance from our planet.

NASA scientists are observing these mysterious dual dust clouds to measure how starlight can impact matter. According to experts, light has the power to exert a type of momentum on matter in a process called radiation pressure. However, this process is difficult to spot in space.

“It’s hard to see starlight causing acceleration because the force fades with distance, notes Yinuo Han, a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy in the United Kingdom. “And other forces quickly take over.”

“To witness acceleration at the level that it becomes measurable, the material needs to be reasonably close to the star or the source of the radiation pressure needs to be extra strong,” Han explains.

“WR140 is a binary star whose ferocious radiation field supercharges these effects,” the expert continues. “Placing them within reach of our high-precision data.”

The Dust Rings NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Found Show What Happens When Giant Stars Collide

The observations made by NASA scientists reveal that the dust plumes form as the two giant stars collide. This happens as each of the stars’ stellar winds come together and creates a cone-shaped shock front in between the celestial objects.

Then, as the stars continue with their regular oval-shaped orbit this shock front moves along with the objects. This in turn creates a smoke-like dust plume to begin to spiral. Stars with a circular orbit would form a pinwheel pattern at this stage, scientists say. The result of these recently-spotted plumes creates a sort of bulls-eye pattern that resembles a spiderweb.

“Like clockwork, this star puffs out sculpted smoke rings every eight years,” notes one of the scientists in a statement.

“Eight years later as the binary returns in its orbit, another appears the same as the one before,” the expert continues. “Streaming out into space inside the bubble of the previous one, like a set of giant nested Russian dolls.”