Thursday, July 5, 2012
It took me a moment to realize it... but this is a real image! This is a shot from Hubble showing a giant carbon star that has had, let us say, some indigestion. More specifically, it has ejected a large amount of gas due to a burst in helium fusion. Someone explain to me how we did not instantly start building a 2nd Hubble? Large space telescopes are simply irreplaceable when it comes to doing exploratory astronomy.
"A bright star is surrounded by a tenuous shell of gas in this unusual image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. U Camelopardalis, or U Cam for short, is a star nearing the end of its life. As it begins to run low on fuel, it is becoming unstable. Every few thousand years, it coughs out a nearly spherical shell of gas as a layer of helium around its core begins to fuse. The gas ejected in the star’s latest eruption is clearly visible in this picture as a faint bubble of gas surrounding the star. U Cam is an example of a carbon star. This is a rare type of star whose atmosphere contains more carbon than oxygen. Due to its low surface gravity, typically as much as half of the total mass of a carbon star may be lost by way of powerful stellar winds."
Source - ESA/Hubble