Celestial Fireworks: Star Eruption Caught By Hubble Telescope

Levi Murphy - Author

Jun. 15 2013, Updated 10:03 p.m. ET

With the 4th of July fireworks celebrations having come and gone for the year, NASA’s Hubble Telescope has picked up images of celestial ‘fireworks’ that has been occurring for centuries (at least 700 years), an erupting star.

NASA’s Hubble Telescope caught the image of the dying Red giant star U Camelopardalis ( U Cam). According to NASA every few thousand years the dying U Cam “coughs out a nearly spherical shell of gas as a layer of helium around its core begins to fuse.” As the star runs low on fuel, it becomes unstable causing these “coughs” of gas to be ejected resulting in an almost perfectly spherical bubble shaped eruption.

U Camelopardalis itself is much smaller than Hubble’s image would have you believe, as Discover Magazine notes:

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“The star itself is actually just a dot on this scale, but is so bright it overwhelmed the detector a bit and looks far bigger than it really is. Those light and dark radial spikes are not real; they’re artifacts of the way the camera sees light from a star In fact, the star would easily fit within a single pixel at the center of the image. Its brightness, however, is enough to saturate the camera’s receptors, making the star look much larger than it is.”

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The star, which is located 1,500 light-years away in a region of sky near the north celestial pole as part of the constellation of Camelopardalis, is rare because it has an atmosphere that contains more carbon than oxygen.

According to Bad Astronomy this may be a view of things to come for our sun as well, even if it is a few billion years off:

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What we’re seeing here is a glimpse of our own future. Our own Sun is on the same path as U Cam. In a little over 6 billion years the Sun will run out of hydrogen in its core, and about 1.5 billion years later will run out of helium to fuse as well.”

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Whatever the case it still makes for an amazing image that is rare to see.


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