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NASA Webb telescope captures star on cusp of death

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida.

The Webb Space Telescope has captured a rare and transient phase of a dying star.

NASA released the image on Tuesday at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.

The observation was one of the first Webb has made since its launch in late 2021. Its infrared eyes picked up all the gas and dust thrown into space by a huge, hot star 15,000 light-years away. A light year is approximately 5.8 trillion miles.

The material, glowing purple like a cherry blossom, once formed the star’s outer layer. The Hubble Space Telescope imaged the same transiting star a few decades ago, but it looked more like a fireball without fine detail.

Such a transformation only happens in some stars, and is usually the last step before they explode into a supernova, according to scientists.

“We have never seen anything like this before. It’s really exciting,” said Macarena GarcĂ­a Mari, a European Space Agency scientist who is part of the project.

This star in the constellation Sagittarius, officially known as WR 124, is 30 times more massive than our sun and has already shed enough material for 10 suns, according to NASA.


— The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science and Education Media Group. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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