Hubble captures the final acts of a monster star’s life

Hubble takes a closer look at its 31st-anniversary image.


Recently Hubble took a closer look at its 31st-anniversary image, showing the dual nature of the star AG Carinae. This comparison of two images shows puffing dust bubbles and an erupting gas shell – the final acts of a monster star’s life.

There is also a nebula surrounding the star AG Carinae by using the slider tool.

The first image shows the details of ionized hydrogen and nitrogen emissions from the expanding shell of the nebula. In the second image, the blue color indicates the distribution of dust that shines in reflected starlight.

Astronomers believe that the powerful stellar winds from the star formed and shaped the dust bubbles and filaments. The nebula is about five light-years wide, similar to the distance from here to the nearest star beyond the Sun, Proxima Centauri.

the color blue delineates the distribution of dust
Credits: ESA/Hubble and NASA, A. Nota, C. Britt

The star AG Carinae, also known as AG Car or a luminous blue variable (LBV). It is one of the brightest stars in the Milky Way.

Stars like LBV continually lose mass in the final stages of life. The star is waging a tug-of-war between gravity and radiation pressure to avoid self-destruction. As the star begins to run out of fuel, its radiation pressure decreases, and gravity begins to take hold. Stellar material succumbs to gravity and falls inward. It heats up and is explosively ejected into the surrounding interstellar space. This process continues until enough mass is lost and the star reaches a stable state.

The nebula surrounding the star looks like a ring, in fact, a hollow shell whose center was cleared of gas and dust by a mighty stellar wind traveling roughly 124 miles per second.

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