Hubble Time Lapse Shows EPIC Stellar Explosion

The team operating the Hubble Space Telescope is dropping jaws across the world, this time with a time-lapse video of an exploding star that spans 4 years. 

Well, this is awesome.

Hubble Time Lapse Shows EPIC Stellar Explosion

According to NASA and the European Space Agency, the time-lapse video was created using Hubble images captured between 2002 and 2006, and viewers can clearly see the patterns of the universe as the light from the star bathes the area around it.

As noted by Gizmodo, prior to exploding V838 had grown to become one of the largest stars ever observed by humans, creating 600,000 times more light than our own sun. When it burst, V838 created an expanding light echo that illuminated the interstellar dust surrounding it and generated one of the most amazing scenes captured by Hubble.

Hubble Time Lapse Shows EPIC Stellar Explosion

As the Hubble website stated,

A typical nova is a normal star that dumps hydrogen onto a compact white-dwarf companion star. The hydrogen piles up until it spontaneously explodes by nuclear fusion — like a titanic hydrogen bomb. This exposes a searing stellar core, which has a temperature of hundreds of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. By contrast, V838 Monocerotis did not expel its outer layers. Instead, it grew enormously in size. Its surface temperature dropped to temperatures that were not much hotter than a light bulb. This behavior of ballooning to an immense size, but not losing its outer layers, is very unusual and completely unlike an ordinary nova explosion.”

Nothing like this has ever been observed before, making it hard to rule out many of the possible explanations. There are quite several hypotheses put forward in the literature about what is causing the event, and they really don’t have much in common.

Hubble Time Lapse Shows EPIC Stellar Explosion

First, some scientists believe V838 Monocerotis was a fairly unique supernova. This idea doesn’t have much support, since the stars in that area are too young and too massive to have caused this type of event. Second unlikely explanation, is that a dying star’s core exploded into a helium flash.

Another model proposes the helium flash, but as a thermonuclear event  in which a massive star would have been able to survive. While this does fit within the necessary age of the star, the star’s mass might not support this idea. 

In planetary capture events, stars begin to consume planets in their system. For a very large planet, getting pulled apart would increase friction between the solar atmosphere and the planet. There could be enough energy generated to spark deuterium fusion, which releases large amounts of energy, such as was seen in the explosion. These types of events are predicted to be about five times more common for stars like V838 Monocerotis than for stars like our Sun.

Hubble Time Lapse Shows EPIC Stellar Explosion

Another possible explanation is an event known as a mergeburst, in which two main sequence stars collide. This hypothesis is supported by computer modeling, and the youth of the star systems in that region could provide the unstable orbits required for stars to merge in that fashion.

Well, the wonders of space never cease to amaze us nor challenge our ideas about the cosmos!


via The Atlantic

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