The James Webb Space Telescope captured an image of a faraway star surrounded by crisp, circular ripples earlier this year. The image was quickly dubbed « bonkers » by scientists, who speculated that it may represent an alien-created superstructure spanning many light years across. Even astronomers were perplexed by the bizarre concentric geometric circles. Is this newest JWST finding, which resembles a « cosmic thumbprint, » a genuine extraterrestrial megastructure? Will this be the ultimate proof that we are not alone in the universe? Join us as we investigate what the JWST captured that stunned everyone!
Judy Schmidt, a citizen scientist, posted the photograph on Twitter in July, triggering a flood of responses and puzzlement. It depicts WR140, a star surrounded by regular ripple-like rings that progressively fade away. The circles, on the other hand, are not exactly round, but rather have a square-like appearance, generating suspicion about possible alien origins.
« I think it’s just nature doing something that is simple, but when we look at it from only one viewpoint it seems impossible, at first, to understand that it is a natural phenomenon, » Schmidt said in an interview. « Why is it formed this way? Why is it so consistent? »
Two Australian astronomers explain in two papers published recently in Nature and Nature Astronomy that the 17 concentric rings seen encircling the star are actually a series of mammoth dust shells formed by the cyclic interaction of a pair of hot stars, one of which is a dying Wolf-Rayet, locked together in a tight orbit.