Beta Pictoris (MIRI Image)

 Beta Pictoris (MIRI Image)

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has imaged star system Beta Pictoris. Webb’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) enabled a team of astronomers to investigate the composition of Beta Pic’s main and secondary debris disks—the latter feature previously detected by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Unexpectedly, Webb’s infrared capabilities detected a new feature of the Beta Pic system: a curvy branch of dust that resembles the shape of a cat’s tail. This tail, only noticeable in the MIRI data, extends from the southwest portion of the secondary debris disk and is estimated to span 10 billion miles.

The dust that forms the tail may be similar to the matter found on the surfaces of comets and asteroids in our solar system. Further analysis is required to understand the origins of the cat’s tail, though the team believes a dust production event—such as a collision between asteroids, comets, or planetesimals—is responsible.

A coronagraph (black circle and two small disks) has been used to block the light of the central star, whose location is marked with a white star shape. In this image, light at 15.5 microns is colored cyan and 23 microns is orange (filters F1550C and F2300C, respectively).



NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Christopher Stark (NASA-GSFC), Kellen Lawson (NASA-GSFC), Jens Kammerer (ESO), Marshall Perrin (STScI)

About The Object
Object Name Beta Pictoris
Object Description Debris disk
R.A. Position 05:47:17.08
Dec. Position -51:03:59.43
Constellation Pictor
Distance 63 light-years (19 parsecs)
Dimensions Image is about 3.6 arcseconds across (712 au)
About The Data
Data Description This image was created with Hubble data from proposal: (C. Stark). Image Processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI).
Instrument MIRI
Exposure Dates 13 December 2022
Filters F1550C, F2300C
About The Image
Color Info This image is a composite of separate exposures acquired by the James Webb Space Telescope using the MIRI instrument. Several filters were used to sample specfic wavelength ranges. The color results from assigning different hues (colors) to each monochromatic (grayscale) image associated with an individual filter. In this case, the assigned colors are:   Cyan: F1550C Orange: F2300C
Compass Image Star system Beta Pictoris. A thin, elongated horizontal orange line appears at the center of the frame, extending almost to the edges. This is a debris disk seen edge-on. A thin blue-green disk is inclined about five degrees counterclockwise relative to the orange main disk. Cloudy, translucent gray material is most prominent near the orange main debris disk. Some of the gray material forms a curved feature in the upper right, resembling a cat’s tail. The central star, represented as a small white star icon, is blocked by an instrument known as a coronagraph, which forms a large black circle at center and two small disks pointing to the upper left and lower right. The background of space is black.
About The Object
Object Name A name or catalog number that astronomers use to identify an astronomical object.
Object Description The type of astronomical object.
R.A. Position Right ascension – analogous to longitude – is one component of an object's position.
Dec. Position Declination – analogous to latitude – is one component of an object's position.
Constellation One of 88 recognized regions of the celestial sphere in which the object appears.
Distance The physical distance from Earth to the astronomical object. Distances within our solar system are usually measured in Astronomical Units (AU). Distances between stars are usually measured in light-years. Interstellar distances can also be measured in parsecs.
Dimensions The physical size of the object or the apparent angle it subtends on the sky.
About The Data
Data Description
  • Proposal: A description of the observations, their scientific justification, and the links to the data available in the science archive.
  • Science Team: The astronomers who planned the observations and analyzed the data. "PI" refers to the Principal Investigator.
Instrument The science instrument used to produce the data.
Exposure Dates The date(s) that the telescope made its observations and the total exposure time.
Filters The camera filters that were used in the science observations.
About The Image
Image Credit The primary individuals and institutions responsible for the content.
Publication Date The date and time the release content became public.
Color Info A brief description of the methods used to convert telescope data into the color image being presented.
Orientation The rotation of the image on the sky with respect to the north pole of the celestial sphere.