Fire burn and cauldron bubble in Canis Major

Oct 30, 2012
A giant bubble blown by the massive Wolf-Rayet star HD 50896, the pink star in the centre of the image. Credit: ESA

The cosmic cauldron has brewed up a Halloween trick in the form of a ghostly face that glows in X-rays, as seen by ESA's XMM-Newton space telescope. The eerie entity is a bubble bursting with the fiery stellar wind of a 'live fast, die young' star.

The bubble lies 5000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Canis Major, the 'greater dog', and can be imagined to take on a dog- or wolf-like face.

It spans nearly 60 light-years across and was blown by the powerful of the Wolf-Rayet star HD 50896 – the pink star near the centre of the image that makes up one of the object's piercing eyes.

Wolf-Rayet bubbles are the result of a hot, massive star – typically greater than 35 the mass of our Sun – expelling material through a strong stellar wind. This star's howling wind is a million-degree plasma potion that emits X-rays, represented in blue in this image.

Where this fierce wind ploughs into surrounding material it is lit up in red tones as seen in the 'cheek' of the face.

The green halo is a result of a shock wave racing out from the star and colliding with the layers of stellar material already ejected into space.

A 'blow-out' of X-ray emission at the top left gives the wolf an ear, and a denser region to the bottom right can be likened to a snout.

The witching hour will soon come for this bubble and its star. The bubble will burst and disperse into the surrounding environment, while the star will end its life in a dramatic .

Explore further: Mixing in star-forming clouds explains why sibling stars look alike

More information: Toala, J. et al. X-Ray Emission from the Wolf-Rayet Bubble S 308. Astrophysical Journal 755, 77 (2012)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hubble Captures a Celestial Geode

Aug 13, 2004

In this unusual image, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captures a rare view of the celestial equivalent of a geode -- a gas cavity carved by the stellar wind and intense ultraviolet radiation from a hot young ...

Supernova remnant menagerie

Jun 07, 2005

A violent and chaotic-looking mass of gas and dust is seen in this Hubble Space Telescope image of a nearby supernova remnant. Denoted N 63A, the object is the remains of a massive star that exploded, spewing ...

A sheep in wolf-rayet's clothing

Feb 20, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- It’s well known that the universe is changeable: even the stars that appear static and predictable every night are subject to change.

Hubble sees red giant blow a bubble

Jul 09, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Camelopardalis, or U Cam for short, is a star nearing the end of its life. As stars run low on fuel, they become unstable. Every few thousand years, U Cam coughs out a nearly spherical shell ...

Supernova 1987A: Fast Forward to the Past

Aug 18, 2005

Recent Chandra observations have revealed new details about the fiery ring surrounding the stellar explosion that produced Supernova 1987A. The data give insight into the behavior of the doomed star in the ...

Recommended for you

How can we find tiny particles in exoplanet atmospheres?

Aug 29, 2014

It may seem like magic, but astronomers have worked out a scheme that will allow them to detect and measure particles ten times smaller than the width of a human hair, even at many light-years distance.  ...

Spitzer telescope witnesses asteroid smashup

Aug 28, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted an eruption of dust around a young star, possibly the result of a smashup between large asteroids. This type of collision can eventually lead to the ...

User comments : 0