Clues in Cosmic Cold Case
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Text, News From The Universe. December 3, 2020. The Earth Spins.
Text, Clues in Cosmic Cold Case. December 3, 2020. Credit, NASA slash JPL Caltech, M. Seibert slash K. Hoadley.
More than a decade ago, NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) saw something strange - a large area of gas with a star at the center.
The ultraviolet observations combined with new theoretical models indicate that the "Blue Ring Nebula" is the result of two stars that have merged.
Likely a Sun-like star swelled and swallowed a smaller companion star.
First a debris disk formed as the star swelled.
The merger blew out material that was sliced in two by the debris disk, creating two cone-shaped clouds traveling outward.
Such mergers are thought common but are hard to detect at an early stage because of all the obscuring dust.
The Blue Ring Nebula appears to be the missing link between the merger event and the eventual single star detectable after dust has dissipated.
Detection of far-ultraviolet light from the Blue Ring Nebula provides a roadmap for finding more stellar mergers, and understanding more about the lives of binary stars.
This news was brought to you in part by the NASAJet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA