A space object so strange some suspect it must be an alien has finally been explained.
Earlier this year, the James Webb Space Telescope captured a picture of a distant star surrounded by clean, circular waves. The image was immediately hailed as “insane” by experts, leading to speculation that it could show an alien-made structure spanning many light-years.
Now scientists think they’ve found an explanation for the strange structures around the star known as WR140. And while it’s not quite as uncommon as aliens, it’s still very strange.
The 17 concentric rings that appear to orbit the star are actually a series of “dust shells,” scientists write in articles published today Nature and natural astronomy. They consist of the interactions of two stars – one of which is dying – which are coupled to each other in orbit.
The star regularly ejects a ring of smoke, which is then passed around by the interstellar wind.
“Like clockwork, WR140 inflates a chiseled smoke ring every eight years, which is then inflated like a balloon in the stellar wind,” said Professor Peter Tuthill of the Sydney Institute for Astronomy at the University of Sydney, who is a co-author on both papers.
“Eight years later, as the binary returns to its orbit, another ring, same as the previous one, erupts into space inside the previous one’s bubble, like a set of giant nested Russian dolls.”
The WR140 binary is actually a huge, dying Wolf-Rayet star and its companion – an even larger supergiant. The two are stuck in an eight-year orbit with each other.
Together, the two create strong, intense winds that push around the dust clouds that are then visible in the telescope. (The results also allowed the scientists to study the effect of light as it pushes dust around in space, also described in the same research.)
“In a way, we always knew that this must be the reason for the drain, but I never thought we’d be able to see the physics at work like this,” Professor Tuthill said. “Looking at the data now, I see the WR140’s plume unfurling a huge dust sail. As it catches the photon wind streaming off the star, it makes a sudden leap forward, like a yacht catching a squall.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/scientists-finally-explain-bizarre-space-object-that-led-to-speculation-about-aliens-42063596.html Scientists Finally Explain Bizarre Space Object That Has Led To Extraterrestrial Speculations