Light echoes from V838 Mon

Mar 19, 2013
Credit: NASA, ESA

(Phys.org) —What caused this outburst of V838 Mon? For reasons unknown, star V838 Mon's outer surface suddenly greatly expanded with the result that it became the brightest star in the entire Milky Way Galaxy in January 2002. Then, just as suddenly, it faded.

A stellar flash like this had never been seen before—supernovas and novas expel matter out into space. Although the V838 Mon flash appears to expel material into space, what is seen in the above image from the is actually an outwardly moving light echo of the bright flash.

In a light echo, light from the flash is reflected by successively more distant rings in the complex array of ambient interstellar dust that already surrounded the star. V838 Mon lies about 20,000 light years away toward the constellation of the unicorn (Monoceros), while the above spans about six light years in diameter.

Explore further: Is the universe finite or infinite?

Related Stories

Echoes from Eta Carinae's great eruption

Dec 29, 2011

During the mid 1800's, the well known star η Carinae underwent an enormous eruption becoming for a time, the second brightest star in the sky. Although astronomers at the time did not yet have the technology ...

The Colorful Demise of a Sun-Like Star

Feb 13, 2007

This image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows the colorful "last hurrah" of a star like our Sun. The star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around ...

A ghost in Cepheus

Nov 01, 2012

Described as a "dusty curtain" or "ghostly apparition," mysterious reflection nebula VdB 152 really is very faint. Far from your neighborhood on this Halloween Night, the cosmic phantom is nearly 1,400 light-years ...

Hubble spies edge-on beauty

May 21, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Visible in the constellation of Andromeda, NGC 891 is located approximately 30 million light-years away from Earth. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope turned its powerful wide field Advanced ...

Glitter galaxy through Hubble's eye

Dec 03, 2012

(Phys.org)—The brilliant cascade of stars through the middle of this image is the galaxy ESO 318-13 as seen by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

A hidden treasure in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Jan 17, 2013

(Phys.org)—Nearly 200 000 light-years from Earth, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, floats in space, in a long and slow dance around our galaxy. Vast clouds of gas within ...

Recommended for you

Is the universe finite or infinite?

Mar 27, 2015

Two possiblities exist: either the Universe is finite and has a size, or it's infinite and goes on forever. Both possibilities have mind-bending implications.

'Teapot' nova begins to wane

Mar 27, 2015

A star, or nova, has appeared in the constellation of Sagittarius and, even though it is now waning, it is still bright enough to be visible in the sky over Perth through binoculars or a telescope.

Dark matter is darker than once thought

Mar 27, 2015

This panel of images represents a study of 72 colliding galaxy clusters conducted by a team of astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope. The research sets new limits on ...

Galaxy clusters collide—dark matter still a mystery

Mar 26, 2015

When galaxy clusters collide, their dark matters pass through each other, with very little interaction. Deepening the mystery, a study by scientists at EPFL and the University of Edinburgh challenges the ...

Using 19th century technology to time travel to the stars

Mar 26, 2015

In the late 19th century, astronomers developed the technique of capturing telescopic images of stars and galaxies on glass photographic plates. This allowed them to study the night sky in detail. Over 500,000 ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

HannesAlfven
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 19, 2013
Okay, then where are the shadows?

It might just as well be an interstellar plasma which exhibits sufficient charge flow to switch from the dark to the glow modes.
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (6) Mar 19, 2013
Okay, then where are the shadows?


How do you know some of the darker patches on the sphere aren't shadows?

It might just as well be an interstellar plasma which exhibits sufficient charge flow to switch from the dark to the glow modes.


That would produce emission at characteristic spectral lines, not the broadband emissions seen, and if your plasma was moving outward, it would show Doppler shift.

You're giving Alfven a bad name.

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.