Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Thor's Helmet

Unlike other things, their end can create and bring beauty.

        I'm talking about massive stars, close to dying: the Wolf-Rayet type. In their last moments, literally giving their last breath (through a wind that is super-fast (>2000 km/s) and massive (~10^(5) solar masses per year)), WR stars can create such a nebula around them. The shape of this one is thought to be this complex due to interactions with a cloud of gas and dust already present in the vicinity of the star.
       It's so hot (~50 000 K) that it makes everything glow around it, the nebula is 30 light years in diameter!

    The name honors truly the object: when I look at it I see this furious, massive, pre-supernova stage star embedded in a cocoon of hot gas while plowing through the galactic interstellar medium. A Thor-like star (quick to anger, ready to explode at any time) wearing a gigantic cosmic helmet while running around in the galaxy through all those clouds of gas and dust...

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