December 19th, 2012 by James Ayre
An incredible infrared image of the giant star, Zeta Ophiuchi, has been captured as it moves through space making waves in the interstellar dust. The image was captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
The researchers think that the star very likely once had a companion star that was larger, and when that star exploded it sent this one flying.the star, Zeta Ophiuchi, is moving at about 54,000 mph. It is roughly 20 times more massive than the Sun, and 80,000 times brighter than our sun.
“In this view, infrared light that we can’t see with our eyes has been assigned visible colors. Zeta Ophiuchi appears as the bright blue star at center. As it charges through the dust, which appears green, fierce stellar winds push the material into waves. Where the waves are the most compressed, and the warmest, they appear red. This bow shock is analogous to the ripples that precede the bow of a ship as it moves through the water, or the pileup of air ahead of a supersonic airplane that results in a sonic boom.”
“NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, released a similar picture of the same object in 2011. WISE sees infrared light as does Spitzer, but WISE was an all-sky survey designed to take snapshots of the entire sky. Spitzer, by contrast, observes less of the sky, but in more detail.”
The WISE image can be seen here.
Source: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Keep up to date with all the most interesting green news on the planet by subscribing to our (free) Planetsave newsletter.