The NASA Hubble Space Telescope celebrated its 31st anniversary observing the final moments of a dying star. AG Carinae, estimated to be 70 times more massive than the Earth's Sun, was captured in two spectacular photos.
The massive star is one of the brightest stars seen in the solar system. It is a few million years old and resides about 20,000 light-years away. NASA classified AG Carinae as a Luminous Blue Variable because of its hot and blue light brightness. Such stars are rare because very few grow to be so massive.
In the photo captured, AG Carinae erupted with a shell of gas and dust. NASA explained in detail the events surrounding the star.
🔵 Dual nature 🔴— Hubble (@NASAHubble) September 17, 2021
These #HubbleFriday views show different aspects of the expanding shell of gas and dust surrounding the star AG Carinae.
This nebula is about five light-years wide and 10,000 years old! Learn more and try our interactive image slider: https://t.co/MiE4HtwRgc pic.twitter.com/CmfZNiNqgS
Final Moments of Dying Star: NASA Hubble Images
There are many interesting and observable facts about AG Carinae. In the photo tweeted above, ionized hydrogen and nitrogen emissions create the red shell. The second image captured with a blue ring is the dust that shines around the core, reflected by starlight. The whole nebula is approximately five light-years wide, which means a distance from the Sun to the next nearest star, Proxima Centauri.
According to NASA, the circular formation around the nebula is created by a galactic tug-of-war between AG Carinae's gravity and radiation, which would continue until the star reaches a stable state.
To summarize, when the star loses radiation, gravity pulls nearby stellar material inward. This heats up the star, which explosively ejects the energy, creating the beautiful rings. Note that no other stars exist in the space between AG Carinae and its outer rings. All the material between is neatly expelled during the explosion.
It is worth noting that AG Carinae and its nebula ring are not perfectly spherical. Astronomers think that powerful stellar winds influenced its shape during an explosion. A YouTube explanation by NASA is embedded below.
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NASA Hubble Space Telescope 31st Anniversary
The astronomical event was analyzed and explained thanks to Hubble Telescope's observations on the star from 2020 and 2014. The photo captured was taken from Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, installed in 1994.
Despite being decades old, Hubble continues to contribute several unique and exciting space discoveries. NASA posted a Hubble Trivia explaining some of its achievements:
- NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990 and has made over 1.5 million observations about 48,000 celestial objects.
- The 31-year-old telescope made more than 181,000 orbits around Earth, totaling over 4.5 billion miles.
- Hubble observations have produced more than 169 terabytes of data available for present and future generations of researchers.
- Astronomers using Hubble data have published more than 18,000 scientific papers, with more than 900 of those papers published in 2020.
Fortunately, space researchers said that Hubble is in pristine condition. The iconic space observatory should still contribute many more discoveries in the years to come.