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A Star of Christmas Past: NASA’s Webb Telescope Captures Breathtaking Image of Former Star

NASA shared a beautiful image of a past star, named Cassiopeia A (Cas A). The photograph shows the former star’s outline, a similar shape to that of a Christmas bauble, with vivid shades of bright pinks, oranges, reds, and purples. Cas A is composed of supernova remnants from a stellar explosion.   

The breathtaking image was taken from the James Webb Telescope, the most powerful telescope on Earth. It orbits the Earth and looks further into space than any telescope has before. The telescope captured the image with a high resolution NIRCam (near-infrared camera).

“With its powerful vision, the Webb Telescope can detect the tiniest knots of sulfur, oxygen, argon and neon gas from the star. Embedded in the gas are dust and molecules that will eventually become part of new stars and planets,” NASA shared in an Instagram post. “It is our hope that this breathtaking image and stunning science inspires a bit of magic, wonder, and joy for anyone who takes a moment to look up at our shared starry-night sky,” they said.

Cas A is about 11,000 light-years away from Planet Earth.

Danny Milisavljevic from Purdue University has been studying Cas A for years and is leading the research. “With NIRCam’s resolution, we can now see how the dying star absolutely shattered when it exploded, leaving filaments akin to tiny shards of glass behind,” the astronomer explained in NASA’s news release.

A small blob is visible in the bottom right-hand side of the image. It has been nicknamed Baby Cas A and is a stunning discovery that has amazed the scientists. It is believed to be a light echo, which is about 170 years behind the supernova remnant.  

First Lady Jill Biden shared the image as part of her White House Advent Calendar to symbolize “magic, wonder and joy” in the holiday season.

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