The James Webb Space Telescope has captured images of concentric “ripple” rings around a distant star. This has made astronomers agitated regarding the new data, a report from LiveScience reveals.
The astonishing image was captured in July, shortly after James Webb started science operations and launched its first batch of full-color images. It was later found and released on Twitter by citizen scientist Judy Schmidt.
Schmidt digs through raw public data to find new James Webb images that have not yet been presented to the public in the best possible way. Her most recent finding shows a star called WR140, surrounded by ripples that fade as they move further away from the source.
WR140 is roughly 5,600 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. It is a variable star, which means that it changes brightness over long periods. The ripples seen in the new James Webb image are not perfectly circular, prompting some to theorize they might have alien origins.
In a Twitter thread, Mark McCaughrean, a science advisor to the European Space Agency, described the image as “bonkers.”
He explained that WR140 is a Wolf-Rayet star, meaning it has “ejected most of [its] hydrogen envelopes [and is] fusing helium or [has] stopped altogether.”
Ryan Lau, an astronomer at NOIRLab and principal investigator of the project that acquired the observations, replied to McCaughrean’s Twitter thread. He said, “our paper on this has been submitted, so please stay tuned for the full story.”
This new observation also demonstrates how amazing the $10 billion James Webb space observatory is. It is the most powerful observatory ever sent to space, and it has already beaten the record for the most distant galaxy ever observed.