Scientists Have Been Trying to Understand This Star for 50 Years. The Webb Telescope Figured It Out Quickly: It Wasn’t a Star

  • The star named "WL 20S," located about 400 light-years from Earth, has turned out to be two stars in the throes of puberty.

  • The depth of the James Webb Space Telescope made this discovery, which went unnoticed for decades.

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The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has once again surprised astronomers with the depth of its observations.

A star surrounded by dust. Located about 400 light-years from Earth in a region of the Milky Way called Rho Ophiuchi, the star WL 20S has been the subject of numerous observations.

At least five different telescopes have been trying to understand the nature of this star since the 1970s, but none have succeeded until now because of the thick clouds of gas and dust that surround it, blocking most of its visible light.

What the James Webb images reveal. The JWST, with its ability to see through layers of stellar material, has discovered that WL 20S isn’t a single star, as scientists had previously thought, but rather a system of two twin stars.

The James Webb telescope features a mid-infrared camera (MIRI), a joint development of the European Space Agency and NASA. Now, this technology has made the finding possible after going unnoticed for decades.

Ready to birth new planets. The James Webb observations, which were cross-checked with ALMA radio telescope data from the Atacama Desert, revealed that jets of ionized gas particles are emanating from the poles of both stars.

These stars are young, between 2 and 4 million years old, and are surrounded by disks of gas and dust. This could indicate that they’re ready to start forming planets, astronomers revealed at the 244th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

The puberty of stars. The discovery is particularly important for understanding the early stages of star formation and the transition of young stars to adulthood.

The gas jets are at a critical point in their development, offering scientists a unique opportunity to study the processes involved in the early life cycle of stars.

Image | ESA | NASA

Related | The James Webb Telescope Just Opened a Window to a Key Moment in the History of the Universe: The Birth of the First Galaxies

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