Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Potsdam Univ.

 

One of the brightest stars in the Milky Way, known as the ‘Peony nebula’ star (formally known as WR 102ka), also leaves quite a bit of beautiful destruction in its wake. The star in question is located in the central region of our galaxy, which also happens to be quite dense with interstellar dust clouds. The clouds obscure the light from the stars buried within them, putting a little damper on this spectacular star’s shine. So to get some semblance of the full picture, the Spitzer Space Telescope took a look at the region at infrared wavelengths – revealing a region decorated by colorful stellar outflow.

 

After peering behind the veil, we can see the true extent of a star that is easily (frequently) lost in the noise. Upon closer inspection, a reddish cloud of glowing material is seen encircling a white dot. After taking the luminosity of the star, astronomers now think the star may, in fact, be the brightest star in the galaxy – even outshining Eta Carina (Fun fact: Eta Carina is not one single star, but two, which make up a binary star system). Furthermore, both stars will become even brighter in the not-too-distant-future (cosmically speaking), when both of them go supernova, but which star will be the first to blow is anyone’s guess.

 


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