Key Takeaways:

  1. WR 124 is a Wolf-Rayet star, a massive, hot, and evolved star located 21,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagitta.
  2. It is one of the fastest-known runaway stars in the Milky Way, moving with a radial velocity of about 200 km/s.
  3. The star is surrounded by a ring nebula called M1-67, composed of material expelled from the star over thousands of years.
  4. Wolf-Rayet stars are crucial for the creation of complex molecules, the building blocks of life, and new stars and planets.
  5. The study of WR 124 provides valuable insights into the evolution and fate of high-mass stars.

WR 124, a Wolf-Rayet star, lies 21,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagitta. Despite its massive size and luminosity, it remains invisible to the naked eye. Known as one of the fastest runaway stars in the Milky Way, WR 124 moves at a remarkable radial velocity of approximately 200 km/s.

The star is surrounded by the ring nebula M1-67, which comprises materials ejected from the star. This intriguing duo caught the attention of the James Webb Space Telescope in June 2022, leading to detailed observations of the nebula’s gas structure. These observations are instrumental in studying how stars like WR 124 influence the formation of complex molecules, essential for life, as well as the birth of stars and planets.

WR 124 is classified as a WN8h-type star, featuring prominent broad emission lines of ionized helium and carbon or nitrogen. It possesses an impressive 20 times the mass of the Sun and is over 500,000 times more luminous. As a relatively young star, WR 124 is still burning hydrogen in its core, but its high mass means it will rapidly evolve and eventually produce a brilliant type Ib or Ic supernova.

The star’s complex nebula, M1-67, spans nearly 6 light-years and showcases a knotted and asymmetric structure. It offers valuable clues about the star’s past episodes of mass ejection. As WR 124 sheds material at an extraordinary rate, its surrounding nebula provides an intriguing glimpse into the life and eventual fate of these rare high-mass stars.

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The luminous, hot star Wolf-Rayet 124 (WR 124) is prominent at the centre of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope’s composite image combining near-infrared and mid-infrared wavelengths of light. Image: credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team (CC BY 4.0)


The Wolf-Rayet star WR 124 and the nebula M1-67, image credit: Judy Schmidt (CC0 1.0)


This NASA Hubble Space Telescope picture of the energetic star WR124 reveals it is surrounded by hot clumps of gas being ejected into space at speeds of over 100,000 miles per hour


This is an optical image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope of the luminous, hot star Wolf-Rayet 124 (WR 124). The image was taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and was released by ESA/Hubble in 2015. The star shines brightly at the very centre of this image and around the hot clumps of gas are ejected into space at over 150 000 kilometres per hour. Image credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA (CC BY 4.0)


Wolf-Rayet stars are known to be efficient dust producers, and the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) on the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope shows this to great effect.


The NIRCam image of WR 124, image credit: Judy Schmidt (CC BY 2.0)


Sh2 80 Ring Nebula Surounding Wolf Rayet star WR 124. Credit: Stanford Faculty Observatory (Bortle 7 SQM 18.6), Stanford, CA, États-Unis


Left: WR 124 as seen by Hubble with many features blocked by dust, Right: WR 124 as seen by Webb shows greater detail Credit: NASA

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