Space

Hubble "holiday wreath" image paints flickering star system in spectacular new light

Hubble "holiday wreath" image ...
The RS Puppis star, shrouded in colorful reflective dust
The RS Puppis star, shrouded in colorful reflective dust
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The RS Puppis star, shrouded in colorful reflective dust
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The RS Puppis star, shrouded in colorful reflective dust

A stunning new photo from the Hubble Space Telescope has offered spectacular perspective on a distant interstellar body. This nebula with the gigantic southern hemisphere star RS Puppis at its heart fluctuates in brightness over a six-week period, allowing for some incredible imaging opportunities that capture light rippling across its surface.

Cepheid variable stars are a type of star that undergo a repeating cycle of brightness, as pulses of light emanate from the star and ripple outwards in what are known as a "light echoes."

RS Puppis happens to be one of the more luminous of this class of stars, with an average intrinsic brightness that is 15,000 times brighter than our own Sun's luminosity. It also has our star covered in mass ten times over, and is 200 times larger for good measure.

The image shows RS Puppis smack bang in the center, shrouded by colorful swirls of reflective dust lit up by the star itself. NASA describes it as a holiday wreath dressed in glittering lights. We don't quite see it ourselves, but hey, who are we to get in the way of a little Christmas cheer.

These kinds of images are not only spectacular to look at, they can offer insights into our understanding of the universe. By tracking the fluctuations in the light of the star, along with those that ripple throughout the nebula, scientists can measure the light echoes and deduce the total distance to RS Puppis form Earth. According to NASA, this has now been narrowed down to 6,500 light years with a one percent margin for error.

Source: NASA

2 comments
clay
Wow. Just beautiful. What will happen when Hubble is "retired"? Will it get a 4th life? Recall after it was placed in orbit and turned on it was discovered that it's mirror was imperfectly ground (I forget, was it gravity that through grind off?). It needed a special mirror/lens to fix it.. That was life #2... Then it got an upgrade to extend it's life during one of the final Shuttle missions. That was life #3... which is the one it is still on. What will life #4 look like? Will it go the way of Mir? Or will someone like SpaceX come along and offer to help extend it's life yet again? How ever it unfolds, the US government agency NASA has blessed all of humanity with an eye to the universe.. regardless of nation, religion, or culture.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
The measuring stick, used to measure the mirror's sagitta while grinding, was cut to the wrong length!