Newly discovered star one of hottest in Galaxy (w/ Video)

Dec 02, 2009
Image of the Bug Nebula taken with the new Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: Anthony Holloway, JBCA.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Astronomers at The University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics have discovered one of the hottest stars in the Galaxy with a surface temperature of around 200,000 degrees - 35 times hotter than the Sun.

Despite numerous attempts by across the world, the mysterious at the heart of the Bug nebula - one of the brightest and most beautiful of the planetary nebulae - has never been seen before.

"This star was so hard to find because it is hidden behind a cloud of dust and ice in the middle of the nebula", explained Professor Albert Zijlstra from The University of Manchester.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
The images in this video were taken with the UK Schmidt Telescope (wide-field, monochrome) and the Hubble Space Telescope (central nebula, colour). Credit: Tim O'Brien & Anthony Holloway, University of Manchester.

"Planetary nebulae like the Bug form when a dying star ejects much of its gas back into space and are among the most beautiful objects in the night sky."

"Our own Sun will do this in about 5 billion years time. The Bug nebula, which is about 3500 light years away in the constellation Scorpius, is one of the most spectacular of all planetary nebulae."

Using the recently refurbished (HST), a team of astronomers led by Professor Zijlstra have shed new light on the nebula with a set of spectacular images.

The images were taken to show off the new improved HST after it began work again in September this year and will be published in the next week.

The Manchester astronomers were amazed to find that the images unexpectedly revealed the missing central star.

Cezary Szyszka, lead author on the paper and a research student at the University of Manchester currently working at the European Southern Observatory, said: "We are extremely lucky that we had the opportunity to catch this star near its hottest point, from now on it will gradually cool as it dies. This is truly an exceptional object."

Professor Zijlstra added: "It's extremely important to understand planetary nebulae such as the Bug Nebula, as they are crucial to understanding our own existence on Earth".

That is because the elements necessary for life, especially carbon, are created inside stars, and ejected into space as part of these planetary nebulae.

Planets such as the Earth form from small dust particles, which also form within planetary nebulae. The cloud of dust and ice in the Bug Nebula contains the seeds of a future generation of planets."

Finding the star was made possible by the Space Shuttle's final servicing mission of the HST, earlier this year. During the mission, astronauts installed the new Wide Field Camera 3 which was used to take these images.

Image of the Bug Nebula with zoomed in section showing the newly discovered central star. Credit: Anthony Holloway & Tim O'Brien, JBCA.

"How a star ejects a nebula like this is still a mystery", added Dr Tim O'Brien from The University of Manchester.

"It seems most stars, including the Sun, will eject as much as 80 per cent of their mass when they finally run out of nuclear fuel at the end of their lives. Material that then goes on to help form the next generation of and planets.

"These observations have shown that the star at the heart of the Bug Nebula is only about 2/3 as heavy as the Sun, but was several times heavier before it threw off its outer layers to form the nebula which had previously hidden it from our
view.

"Images like these are remarkable not only for their beauty but also for what they tell us about our own origins."

More information: The research will be published in a paper entitled "Detection of the Central Star of the NGC~6302", by Cezary Szyszka, Jeremy Walsh, Albert Zijlstra, and Yannis Tsamis in The Astrophysical Journal.

Provided by University of Manchester (news : web)

Explore further: How baryon acoustic oscillation reveals the expansion of the universe

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

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 ...

Dying star creates fantasy-like sculpture of gas and dust

Sep 09, 2004

A new study of a large number of planetary nebulae has revealed that rings, such as those seen here around the Cat's Eye Nebula, are much more common that thought so far and have been found in at least one third ...

Hubble Captures Stars Going Out in Style

Sep 11, 2007

The colorful, intricate shapes in these NASA Hubble Space Telescope images reveal how the glowing gas ejected by dying Sun-like stars evolves dramatically over time.

The Last Confessions of a Dying Star

Mar 04, 2008

Probing a glowing bubble of gas and dust encircling a dying star, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals a wealth of previously unseen structures.

One Star's Life Ends With A Ring

Aug 19, 2004

A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the shimmering embers of a dying star, and in their midst a strange doughnut-shaped ring. "Spitzer's infrared vision has revealed what could not be seen before - a m ...

Recommended for you

The Great Cold Spot in the cosmic microwave background

Sep 19, 2014

The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is the thermal afterglow of the primordial fireball we call the big bang. One of the striking features of the CMB is how remarkably uniform it is. Still, there are some ...

Mystery of rare five-hour space explosion explained

Sep 17, 2014

Next week in St. Petersburg, Russia, scientists on an international team that includes Penn State University astronomers will present a paper that provides a simple explanation for mysterious ultra-long gamma-ray ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

plaidmusician1227
not rated yet Dec 03, 2009
That is amazing. I never thought that I would ever see a star THAT bright. Our universe is just amazing.
omatumr
1 / 5 (2) Dec 03, 2009
Great story!

The Bug Nebula looks much like the event that produced the sun and the solar system by the axial explosion of an earlier, more massive star.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Alexa
Dec 03, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.