In celebration of the 31st anniversary of the launching of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers aimed the observatory at a “celebrity star” that is “waging a tug-of-war between gravity and radiation to avoid self-destruction.”
As reported by NASA, this star, called AG Carinae, is one of the brightest stars in the Milky Way and is surrounded by a glowing halo of gas and dust that is the result of it “living on the edge.”
The image captured of AG Carinae, which you can see below, is a “composite of separate exposures acquired by the WFC3/UVIS instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope. Several filters were used to sample narrow wavelength ranges. The color results from assigning different hues (colors) to each monochromatic (grayscale) image associated with an individual filter.”
The expanding shell of gas and dust surrounded this star is roughly five light-years wide and was created by “one of the more giant eruptions about 10,000 years ago.” This expelled material is nearly 10 times our sun’s mass.
This is typical activity for a rare breed of star called a luminous blue variable, a star that “lives fast and dies young.” They only live for a few million years, which is a short lifespan when compared to the roughly 10-billion-year lifetime of those like our sun.
AG Carinae is also up to 70 times bigger than our sun and “shines with the blinding brilliance of one million suns.”
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These outbursts occur only once or twice in a luminous blue variable’s lifetime and only happen when the star is in danger of self-destruction as a supernova.
The red material in the image is glowing hydrogen gas laced with nitrogen gas, while the blue highlighted material are “dust clumps illuminated by the star’s reflected light” that are shaped by stellar wind.
Fun Facts About the Hubble Space Telescope
At the end of the article, NASA shared some info about the Hubble Space Telescope, including that it launched on April 24, 1990 and has made more than 1.5 million observations of about 48,000 celestial objects in its lifetime.
It has made more than 181,000 orbits around earth, which equals over 4.5 billion miles, and its observations have produced more than 169 terabytes of data. This data has led to more than 18,000 scientific papers, with 900 of those published in 2020.
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