Usually stars evolve slowly, taking millions of years to do so. Most astronomers won't be able to keep track of a star's evolution in one lifetime. It usually takes several centuries of observations for astronomers to even detail a star's evolution. However there is at least one star that might give astronomers a chance to follow its growth within a feasible timeframe.
The star is SAO 244567 in the Stingray Nebula. It is that nebula's central star. The star is about 2,400 light-years away from Earth. Astronomers have been documenting the star for over 30 years now using the Hubble telescope. During that time, it has been noted that the surface temperature of the star has increased. But now there are changes going on as the star begins to cool down.
"SAO 244567 is one of the rare examples of a star that allows us to witness stellar evolution in real time," Nicole Reindl from the University of Leicester, UK and lead author of the study, said.
In just 20 years, he said that they have observed the star double its temperature. During that period, the researchers also they saw it ionize its ejected envelope, which is now known as the Stingray Nebula.
From 1971 to 2002, astronomers have seen significant increases in the star's temperature, noted Popular Science. Presently, however, it is cooling, heating up the helium around it. For astronomers, this is called the helium-shell flash event. At this point, the star begins to have a rebirth, cooling and expanding as it does so.
This process will likely go on for the next few hundred years. It will continue to grow and then change color to orange. The original mass of SAO 244567 is the same as that of our Sun, and scientists now want to know why it has heated so fast in just a short amount of time, when low-mass stars usually take much longer to do so.
What is clear though is that the star is beginning to cool while at the same time expanding, according to Science Daily. Although this is not the first time this has happened to a star, this is the first time that it has been observed in almost real time.
Much like most of the universe, SAO 244567 is still very much a mystery with its behavior. Astronomers will continue to monitor it to see what other changes it might have as it offers a unique opportunity for them to study its changes in such a short amount of time.
There is still much mystery in our universe, such as dark matter and now it can affect others around it, as iTechPost reports.