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Two stars both alike in dignity, in the fair Southern Ring planetary nebula where we lay our scene... Here our “star-crossed lovers” are actually a dying star expelling gas & dust, in orbit with a younger star that is helping to change the shape of this nebula’s intricate rings by creating turbulence.
The James Webb Space Telescope can see through the gas and dust in unprecedented detail. In thousands of years, these delicate, gaseous layers will dissipate into surrounding space.
This image is from Webb’s NIRCam instrument, which saw this nebula in the near-infrared.
The Southern Ring nebula is called a planetary nebula. Despite “planet” in the name, which comes from how these objects first appeared to astronomers observing them hundreds of years ago, these are shells of dust and gas shed by dying Sun-like stars. The new details from Webb will transform our understanding of how stars evolve and influence their environments.
Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI