The James Webb Space Telescope has taken remarkable new pictures of the famous Ring Nebula (Messier 57). A global group of astronomers shared the images, showing the nebula’s complex beauty in unmatched detail and spectacular colors!
A group of astronomers from Western’s Institute for Earth and Space Exploration observed the nebula and shared the new findings. If you’re an astrophotographer, you might have even given it a go at shooting the Ring Nebula yourself. Located in the constellation Lyra, this celestial beauty is visible even through a small amateur telescope.
For Western astrophysicist Jan Cami, observing the Ring Nebula through the world’s most powerful telescope was a childhood dream come true. “I first saw the Ring Nebula as a kid through just a small telescope,” Cami says. “I would never have thought that one day, I would be part of the team that would use the most powerful space telescope ever built, to look at this object.”
This Ring Nebula photo vividly displays the main ring, surrounded by a subtle halo and various intricate structures. The ring’s interior is filled with hot gas, and at the very center, you can clearly see the star responsible for ejecting all of this matter. This star is incredibly hot, boasting a temperature that exceeds 100,000 degrees. Intriguingly, the nebula was ejected just around 4,000 years ago, which is very young in cosmic terms!
As for the technical aspects, this image was captured using JWST’s NIRCam instrument on the August 4, 2022. It’s important to note that this is a composite image, created by combining images from three different filters: F212N (blue), F300M (green), and F335M (red).
Naturally, the new image doesn’t only reveal new detail to astronomy and astrophotography enthusiasts. It’s also significant for astronomers and scientists. “Scientifically, I am very interested to learn how a star turns its gaseous envelope into this mixture of simple and complex molecules and dust grains,” Cami says, “and these new observations will help us figure that out.”
“We are witnessing the final chapters of a star’s life, a preview of the Sun’s distant future so to speak,” says Mike Barlow of the University College London. “JWST’s observations have opened a new window into understanding these awe-inspiring cosmic events. We can use the Ring Nebula as our laboratory to study how planetary nebulae form and evolve.”
[via Space.com; image credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, JWST Ring Nebula Team photo; image processing by Roger Wesson]