NASA Hubble Space Telescope Captures 'Blue Bubble' of a Wolf-Rayet Star
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured a spectacular image of what appears to be a blue bubble floating in the depths of space. The new image reveals a bit more about a Wolf-Rayet star known a WR 31a, located about 30,000 light-years away in the constellation of Carina (the Keel).
The distinctive blue bubble appearing to encircle WR31a is a Wolf-Rayet nebula-an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gases. Created when speedy stellar winds interact with the outer layers of hydrogen ejected by Wolf-Rayet stars, these nebulae are frequently ring-shaped or spherical. The bubble, which is estimated to have formed about 20,000 years ago, is expanding at a rate of about 136,700 miles per hour.
With that said, the lifecycle of a Wolf-Rayet star is only a few hundred thousand years. That's a blink of an eye in cosmic terms. Despite beginning life with a mass at least 20 times that of the sun, Wolf-Rayet stars typically lose half of their mass in less than 100,000 years; WR 31a is not exception in this case. It will, therefore, eventually end its life as a spectacular supernova. In addition, the stellar material that it expels from this cosmic explosion will nourish a new and later generation of stars and planets.
Want to see more amazing images? Check out the Hubble Space Telescope on NASA's site.
For more great science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).