NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has recorded breath-taking new images of the iconic Ring Nebula, also known as Messier 57.
The images, released today by an international team of astronomers led by Professor Mike Barlow (UCL, UK) and Dr Nick Cox (ACRI-ST, France), with Professor Albert Zijlstra of The University of Manchester, showcase the nebula’s intricate and ethereal beauty in unprecedented detail, providing scientists and the public with a mesmerizing view of this celestial wonder.
For many sky enthusiasts, the Ring Nebula is a well-known object that is visible all summer long and is located in the constellation Lyra.
A small telescope will already reveal the characteristic donut-like structure of glowing gas that gave the Ring Nebula its name.
The Ring Nebula is a planetary nebula — objects that are the colourful remnants of dying stars that have thrown out much of their mass at the end of their lives.
Its distinct structure and its vibrant colours have long captivated the human imagination and the stunning new images captured by the JWST offer an unparalleled opportunity to study and understand the complex processes that shaped this cosmic masterpiece.
Albert Zijlstra, Professor in Astrophysics at the University of Manchester, said: “We are amazed by the details in the images, better than we have ever seen before. We always knew planetary nebulae were pretty. What we see now is spectacular.”
Dr Mike Barlow, the lead scientist of the JWST Ring Nebula Project, added: “The James Webb Space Telescope has provided us with an extraordinary view of the Ring Nebula that we’ve never seen before. The high-resolution images not only showcase the intricate details of the nebula’s expanding shell but also reveal the inner region around the central white dwarf in exquisite clarity. We are witnessing the final chapters of a star’s life, a preview of the Sun’s distant future so to speak, and JWST’s observations have opened a new window into understanding these…