In a first, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may have glimpsed a rare type of star that astronomers aren’t even sure exists. These stellar objects, called “dark stars,” might not have been fueled not by nuclear fusion but by the self-annihilation of dark matter—the invisible stuff that is thought to make up about 85 percent of the matter in the universe. The candidate stars seen by JWST will need more evidence to be confirmed, but if they’re real, the finding could change our story of how the first stars formed.
Contrary to their name, dark stars could typically have glowed a billion times more luminously than the sun and grown to a million times its mass. Dark stars have never been definitively observed, but cosmological simulations suggest that they should have formed soon after the big bang from clouds of pure hydrogen and helium that collapsed at the centers of protogalaxies rich in dark matter.
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