Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Thirteen Light-Year Roostertail

By Cernig

This is a seriously cool pic. Why?
Astronomers using a NASA space telescope, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer, have spotted an amazingly long comet-like tail behind a star streaking through space.

...Galaxy Evolution Explorer--"GALEX" for short--scanned the popular star during its ongoing survey of the entire sky in ultraviolet light. Astronomers then noticed what looked like a comet with a gargantuan tail. In fact, material blowing off Mira is forming a wake 13 light-years long, or about 20,000 times the average distance of Pluto from the sun. Nothing like this has ever been seen before around a star.
Mira is barrelling through space at 291,000 miles per hour, creating a speedboat-style wake of ultra-violet fluorescing hot gases. That's fricking cool to an amateur astonomer and science geek like me.

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