NASA scientists just released an image of a Wolf-Rayet nebula taken in one of the latest photo shoots of their famous Hubble Space Telescope.
The above picture is one of the most intricate depictions of a star and it features an enormous blue bubble, located some 30,000 light-years away from us.
The bubble is part of a Wolf-Rayet star, which is one of the most fascinating celestial objects to have ever existed in the Universe.
According to scientists, these stars “live fast and die hard”, creating massive explosions as they go, leaving behind a mix of heavy elements that can be used by the next generation of planets and stars.
NASA scientists released a statement on Friday, detailing this phenomenon. They said that the lifecycle of one of these stars is very short, of only a few hundred thousand years. Even though their original mass is at least 20 times bigger than the Sun’s, they usually lose half their mass within 100,000 years.
The Sun, on the other hand, is 4.5 billion years and we expect it to live for at least 5 more billion years.
The star depicted in this image is called WR 31a and is enclosed by a very specific blue bubble (a Wolf-Rayet nebula) composed of dust, helium, hydrogen, among others.
According to scientists, these round-shaped nebulae start forming when fast-paced stellar winds come in contact with the exterior layers of hydrogen cast out by Wolf-Rayet stars.
The expert opinion is that this bubble started forming some 20,000 years ago and it’s currently expanding with a speed of 220,000 kilometers per hour.
The WR31a star is hosted by the Carina constellation and since these stellar bodies have such short lives, it can be considered a stroke of luck that the Hubble Space Telescope managed to capture it in all its glory before it becomes a supernova.
The Wolf-Rayet stars are a group of stars with a peculiar spectrum, revealing vast emissions of highly ionised nitrogen and helium. They represent the evolved stage of over 20 solar masses that have lost their outer hydrogen and are now fusing only helium or even heavier elements.
Some of the most famous examples are Gamma Velorum, Theta Muscae and the biggest known star – R136a1.
Ultimately, the WR 31a will end its lifespan, but like all great stars, it will leave behind a trail of material to help create the next generation of glorious celestial objects.
Image Source: Sci-news