Images released Tuesday by NASA show rare Wolf-Rayet star WR124 in unprecedented detail. Photo courtesy of NASA
March 14 (UPI) -- NASA's James Webb Telescope captured a rare Wolf-Rayet star, one of the first times an image of that type of supernova has been seen.
The space agency Tuesday released images of the star in transition, which were captured in "unprecedented detail."
Wolf-Rayet 124 comes with "a distinctive halo of gas and dust that frames the star and glows in the infrared light detected by Webb, displaying knotty structure and a history of episodic ejections," NASA said in a statement.
The cosmic dust that is formed as gas is ejected away from the star, cooling along the way.
Referred to by scientists as a "dust budget," dust that survives a supernova explosion is important for astronomers as they attempt to get a better understanding of the celestial objects.
"Dust is integral to the workings of the universe," NASA said in a statement.
"It shelters forming stars, gathers together to help form planets, and serves as a platform for molecules to form and clump together -- including the building blocks of life on Earth. Despite the many essential roles that dust plays, there is still more dust in the universe than astronomers' current dust-formation theories can explain. The universe is operating with a dust budget surplus."
The cosmic dust is "composed of the heavy-element building blocks of the modern universe, including life on Earth."
Wolf-Rayet stars go through rapid expansion early in their lives.
They are some of the biggest and brightest stars in the sky, often expanding to a mass 20 times bigger than our sun.
Their decline is rapid, losing half their mass by the time they're 100,000 years old, culminating with a massive supernova explosion when they die.