Two entangled stars create what looks like a “fingerprint” in space. NASA release a photo Wed the duo taken by which shows at least 17 rings of dust surrounding the stars.
The images were taken with the help of the telescope’s medium-infrared instrument, which was created by NASA and the European Space Agency.
The stars, collectively known as Wolf-Rayet 140, are located 5,000 light-years from Earth, NASA said in a press release. NASA explained that each dust ring forms when the two stars come close to each other during their orbit, causing gases to be emitted from both to compress and form the rings.
“Turning gas into dust is a bit like turning flour into bread: It requires specific conditions and ingredients,” NASA said of the dust rings.
It takes about eight years for each ring to form.
“We’re looking at more than a century of dust production from this system,” said astronomer Ryan Lau.
NASA has revealed that the couple is nearing the end of their lives, which will lead to their collapse and the formation of a black hole. Stars classified as Wolf-Rayet have a mass at least 25 times greater than the mass of the Sun, and are pumping out massive amounts of gas.
According to NASA, the duo may have shed more than half of their original mass over time.
Astronomers also believe that winds from the stars swept the area around any debris that could distort the rings, which is why they can be clearly seen through.
“There will likely be more episodes that are getting so faint and scattered that not even Webb can see them in the data,” NASA said.
Material drifting from Wolf-Rayet stars can accumulate and form new stars. NASA has revealed that there is some evidence to show that the Sun may also have formed in this way.
Only 600 Wolf-Rayet stars have been found by astronomers in the sky, but they say there must be at least a few thousand.