Fire burn and cauldron bubble in Canis Major

October 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: Hubble Captures a Celestial Geode

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

Related Stories

Hubble Captures a Celestial Geode

August 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 star. Real geodes ...

Supernova remnant menagerie

June 7, 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 its gaseous ...

A sheep in wolf-rayet's clothing

February 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

July 9, 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 of gas as a layer ...

Supernova 1987A: Fast Forward to the Past

August 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 years before it ...

Discovery of a new type of very-high-energy gamma ray emitter

February 6, 2007

An international team of astrophysicists from the H.E.S.S. collaboration has announced the discovery of a new type of very-high-energy (VHE) gamma ray source. Combining data obtained during a systematic survey of the Galactic ...

Recommended for you

Earth's days getting longer: study

December 7, 2016

Earth's days are getting longer but you're not likely to notice any time soon—it would take about 6.7 million years to gain just one minute, according to a study published on Wednesday.

Cassini makes first ring-grazing plunge

December 6, 2016

NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft has made its first close dive past the outer edges of Saturn's rings since beginning its penultimate mission phase on Nov. 30.

Curiosity rover team examining new drill hiatus

December 6, 2016

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is studying its surroundings and monitoring the environment, rather than driving or using its arm for science, while the rover team diagnoses an issue with a motor that moves the rover's drill.

Colliding galaxy clusters

December 5, 2016

Galaxy clusters contain a few to thousands of galaxies and are the largest bound structures in the universe. Most galaxies are members of a cluster. Our Milky Way, for example, is a member of the "Local Group," a set of about ...

New dwarf satellite galaxy of Messier 83 found

December 5, 2016

(Phys.org)—Astronomers have found a new dwarf satellite of Messier 83 (M83, also known as the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy) located some 85,000 light years from its host. This satellite galaxy was designated dw1335-29 and could ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.