Image: Hubble's cosmic holiday wreath

Image: Hubble’s cosmic holiday wreath
Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) – Hubble/Europe Collaboration; Acknowledgement: H. Bond (STScI and Pennsylvania State University)

This festive NASA Hubble Space Telescope image resembles a holiday wreath made of sparkling lights. The bright southern hemisphere star RS Puppis, at the center of the image, is swaddled in a gossamer cocoon of reflective dust illuminated by the glittering star. The super star is ten times more massive than the sun and 200 times larger.

RS Puppis rhythmically brightens and dims over a six-week cycle. It is one of the most luminous in the class of so-called Cepheid . Its average intrinsic brightness is 15,000 times greater than the sun's luminosity.

The nebula flickers in brightness as pulses of light from the Cepheid propagate outwards. Hubble took a series of photos of light flashes rippling across the nebula in a phenomenon known as a "." Even though light travels through space fast enough to span the gap between Earth and the moon in a little over a second, the nebula is so large that can actually be photographed traversing the nebula.

By observing the fluctuation of light in RS Puppis itself, as well as recording the faint reflections of light pulses moving across the nebula, astronomers are able to measure these light echoes and pin down a very accurate distance. The distance to RS Puppis has been narrowed down to 6,500 -years (with a margin of error of only one percent).


Explore further

RS Puppis puts on a spectacular light show

Provided by NASA
Citation: Image: Hubble's cosmic holiday wreath (2018, December 21) retrieved 17 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-12-image-hubble-cosmic-holiday-wreath.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
364 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

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