A giant star on the brink of destruction.
The Hubble Space Telescope captures a star near to its own end.
In celebration of the 31st anniversary of the launching of NASA’s Hubble Space
Telescope on April 24, 1990, astronomers aimed the renowned observatory at a
brilliant “celebrity star,” one of the brightest stars seen in our galaxy, surrounded
by a glowing halo of gas and dust.
The huge structure was created from one or more giant eruptions about 10,000
years ago. The star’s outer layers were blown into space—like a boiling teapot
popping off its lid. The expelled material amounts to roughly 10 times our Sun’s
These stars are among the most massive and brightest stars known. They live for
only a few million years, compared to the roughly 10-billion-year lifetime of our
Sun. AG Carinae is a few million years old and resides 20,000 light-years away
inside our Milky Way galaxy; also estimated to be up to 70 times more massive
than our Sun and shines with the blinding brilliance of one million suns.
The image was taken in visible and ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light offers a
slightly clearer view of the filamentary dust structures that extend all the way
down toward the star. Hubble is ideally suited for ultraviolet-light observations
because this wavelength range can only be viewed from space.
Luminous blue variable stars are rare: Less than 50 are known among the galaxies
in our local group of neighboring galaxies. These stars spend tens of thousands of
years in this phase, a blink of an eye in cosmic time. Many are expected to end
their lives in titanic supernova blasts, which enrich the universe with heavier
elements beyond iron.
5th May, 2021.