At 5,000 light-years away, Wolf-Rayet 140 is a relatively close neighbor to our solar system. Recently, the NASA Webb Space Telescope captured images of the binary star system, which gave the appearance of a “fingerprint.”
NASA said its fingerprint-like appearance was due to its solar winds. NASA said the “stars’ orbits bring them together about once every eight years; like the growth of rings of a tree’s trunk, the dust loops mark the passage of time.”
NASA said the system is called Wolf-Rayet 140 because one of the stars is a Wolf-Rayet star. A Wolf-Rayet star is at least 25 times larger than the sun and nearing the end of its life.
“Even though Wolf-Rayet stars are rare in our galaxy because they are short-lived as far as stars go, it’s possible they’ve been producing lots of dust throughout the history of the galaxy before they explode and/or form black holes,” said Patrick Morris, an astrophysicist at Caltech in Pasadena, California, and a co-author of the new study. “I think with NASA’s new space telescope we’re going to learn a lot more about how these stars shape the material between stars and trigger new star formation in galaxies.”
Since it began sending back images this summer, the Webb Space Telescope has captured stunning images across the universe. The telescope has allowed scientists to examine galaxies up to 13.1 billion light-years away. The telescope's spectrograph permits NASA to explore galaxies' chemical composition.
The Webb telescope will replace the Hubble telescope as NASA's primary view of deep space.
NASA released the first set of images from the telescope on July 12.