Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

It would be an absolute travesty on all of our parts if we didn't show you this splendid celestial region, which comes wrapped in its own cosmic bow! This image showcases one of the most massive stars in our celestial neighborhood, which is located about 366 light-years from Earth. Okay, so "neighborhood" might be a little bit too loose of a word given the immense distance a single light-year entails (about 6 trillion miles or ten trillion kilometers), but considering our galaxy alone is about 100,000 light-years in diameter, it's safe to say, Zeta Ophichui is "near-by".

 

Interestingly, the star in question SHOULD be one of the brightest stars in our night sky given its mass and spectral classification, but since it is still a young star in the initial phase of stellar evolution, the star (which is 20 times more massive than the sun and emits about 80,000 times more light) is still enshrouded in its stellar cocoon, smothered by thick blankets of interstellar dust, much of the light from the dense, opaque material is absorbed from our line of sight and can only properly be observed in infrared.

 

In addition, the young star emits large quantities of energetic particles that wrap around the star. Paired with the rapid rate at which the star rotates through the surrounding dust (about 15 miles, or 25 kilometers per second), a wave-like structure is generated (called "bow shock"). Overall, this arc is about four light-years in length, which is equivalent to about 25 TRILLION miles (or 40 TRILLION kilometers).

 

You can see the whole 4,000 x 3,600 pixel image, equipped with a zoom button, here.


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