This is what a star looks like as it’s about to die

NASA telescope image of a star on verge of death
An image captured by NASA’s Webb Space Telescope shows WR 124, center, a star in the constellation Sagittarius, on the cusp of death.
(NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team)

The James Webb Space Telescope has captured the rare and fleeting phase of a star on the cusp of death.

The observation was among the first made by the telescope following its launch in late 2021. NASA released the picture Tuesday at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.

The telescope’s infrared eyes captured all the gas and dust flung into space by a huge, hot star 30 times as massive as our sun, some 15,000 light-years away. A light-year is about 5.9 trillion miles.


Shimmering in purple like a cherry blossom, the cast-off material once composed the star’s outer layer. The Hubble Space Telescope snapped a shot of the same transitioning star a few decades ago, but it appeared more like a fireball without the delicate details.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has provided an image of Neptune that shows the planet’s rings — the clearest view in more than 30 years.

Sept. 23, 2022

Such a transformation occurs only with some stars and normally is the last step before they explode, going supernova, according to scientists.

“We’ve never seen it like that before. It’s really exciting,” said Macarena Garcia Marin, a European Space Agency scientist who is part of the project.

This star in the constellation Sagittarius, officially known as WR 124, already has shed enough material to account for 10 suns, according to NASA.