The 26-year-old space observatory never ceases to amaze us. On Friday, NASA released a stunning image of a celestial sight caught recently by Hubble’s instruments. The image shows an interstellar cloud of gas and dust known as a nebula.
But the most interesting detail in the picture is the nebula’s bluish tint. Scientists said that the nebula envelops a bright star in the Wolf-Rayet spectrum, dubbed WR 31a, which can be found on the night sky within the Carina constellation. The star is located about 30,000 light-years away.
NASA scientists explained that the blue nebula might have formed in the wake of chemical interactions between stellar winds and the cloud of hydrogen surrounding the young star. According to NASA, the cosmic bubble is extremely active. It expands at a rate of 136,700 mph, or 220,000 kph.
Researchers also explained that stars in the Wolf-Rayet spectrum do not last long. They live at most a few hundred thousand years, which is like ‘the blink of an eye’ at a cosmic scale. Additionally, these stars do not have a common beginning. They emerge with a mass that is 20 times than the sun and they are usually up to 30 times hotter, but they quickly lose half their mass.
The extreme dynamics causes the star to have a spectacular ending. It usually ends up as a supernova, which is a stellar explosion that can outshine for some brief moments an entire galaxy. Yet, the end means another beginning because the cosmic material resulted in the burst will nourish other young stars and planets.
Nevertheless, capturing a cosmic bubble is not a first for the Hubble Space Telescope. The space observatory has captured other circular nebulae over the years such as the Tarantula Nebula, also known as 30 Doradus, which hosts the brightest star we have knowledge of to date, RMC 136a1. Tarantula Nebula, which is located some 163,000 light years away, is a well-known stellar nursery.
Another stunning nebula, Hubble immortalized in recent years is the Ring Nebula (M57), a multicolored ring-shaped ring of dust and gas located 2,000 light-years from Earth. The dying star at the center of the nebula is also surrounded by a layer of blue gas it has ejected. Scientists explained that in this case the blue hue is due to very hot helium around the blazing central star.
Image Source: NASA