Petulant Star Ejects Spectacular Bubble of Glowing Gases
The mighty blue giant AG Carinae is not your normal star. One of the brightest stars in our Milky Way galaxy, AG Carinae is sizzling hot, shining with the brilliance of 1 million suns. You would need super sunscreen if you lived in the star’s vicinity. The star is up to 70 times heftier than our Sun and burning fuel at a ferocious rate.
Its opulence means that the mammoth star is living life in the fast lane. Pouring out so much energy takes a toll on the stellar behemoth. It is prone to convulsive fits, expanding in size like a hot air balloon and shedding its outer layers of material into space. One or more giant eruptions 10,000 years ago created the beautiful, expanding shell of dust and gas seen here. Stars like this one are rare: less than 50 reside in our local group of neighboring galaxies.
The Hubble Space Telescope snapped an image of this particularly large outburst to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Earth-orbiting observatory’s launch into space.
In celebration of the 31st anniversary of the launching of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on April 24, 1990, astronomers aimed the renowned observatory at a brilliant “celebrity star,” one of the brightest stars seen in our galaxy, surrounded by a glowing halo of gas and dust. Hubble’s senior project scientist, Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, takes us on a tour of this stunning new image, describes the telescope’s current health, and summarizes some of Hubble’s contributions to astronomy from the past year. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
In celebration of the 31st anniversary of the launching of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers aimed the renowned observatory at a brilliant “celebrity star,” one of the brightest stars seen in our galaxy, surrounded by a glowing halo of gas and dust.
The price for the monster star’s opulence is “living on the edge.” The star, called AG Carinae, is waging a tug-of-war between gravity and radiation to avoid self-destruction.
The expanding shell of gas and dust that surrounds the star is about five light-years wide, which equals the distance from here to the nearest star beyond the Sun, Proxima Centauri.
The huge structure was created from one or more giant eruptions about 10,000 years ago. The star’s outer layers were blown into space—like a boiling teapot popping off its lid. The expelled material amounts to roughly 10 times our Sun’s mass.
These outbursts are the…