Webb captures detailed beauty of Ring Nebula (NIRCam and MIRI images)
The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope has observed the well-known Ring Nebula with unprecedented detail. Formed by a star throwing off its outer layers as it runs out of fuel, the Ring Nebula is an archetypal planetary nebula. Also known as M57 and NGC 6720, it is both relatively close to Earth at roughly 2,500 light-years away.
The new images provide unprecedented spatial resolution and spectral sensitivity, which also reveal unique details across both infrared observations. For example, the new image from Webb’s NIRCam (Near-InfraRed Camera) shows the intricate details of the filament structure of the inner ring (left), while the new image from Webb’s MIRI (Mid-InfraRed Instrument) reveals particular details in the concentric features in the outer regions of the nebulae’s ring (right).
There are some 20,000 dense globules in the nebula, which are rich in molecular hydrogen. In contrast, the inner region shows very hot gas. The main shell contains a thin ring of enhanced emission from
carbon-based molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Roughly ten concentric arcs are located just beyond the outer edge of the main ring. The arcs are thought to originate from the interaction of the central star with a low-mass companion orbiting at a distance comparable to that between the Earth and the dwarf planet Pluto. In this way, nebulae like the Ring Nebula reveal a kind of astronomical archaeology, as astronomers study the nebula to learn about the star that created it.
[Image description: This visual shows two images side by side of the Ring Nebula. The image on the left shows Webb’s NIRCam view and the image on the right shows Webb’s MIRI image. The left image shows the planetary nebula as a distorted donut with a rainbow of colours with a blue/green inner cavity and clear filamental structure in the inner region of the ring. The right image shows the nebula with a red/orange central cavity with a ring structure that transitions from colours of yellow to purple/blue.]Credit:
ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, M. Barlow, N. Cox, R. Wesson
About the Image
|Release date:||21 August 2023, 16:00|
|Size:||4097 x 3428 px|