Space Photos of the Week: The Life and Death of Stars
This week’s showcase of the cosmos has something for everyone, young and old, along with a factoid you might have missed in high school science: Jupiter’s rings. (Granted, they don’t measure up to Saturn’s, but still!)
When the Voyager spacecraft flew past this solar system behemoth in 1979, the long hypothesized rings were discovered, and just last year Juno flew inside the rings during one of its orbits. Departing Jupiter, we’ll regard what’s left of a supernova some 20,000 light years away. The death of stars can be quiet; they can eventually cool down and turn into red giants. (That’s the fate that will befall our Sun someday.)
In other instances, the end comes with much more drama. Stars can collapse on themselves and set off some of the most violent events in the universe. The supernova remnant we’re looking at this week, G54.1+0.3, has done just that—throwing off globs of gas and material. As the onetime star imploded, it created a neutron star, one of the densest types of stars in the known universe. Just a teaspoon of its mass weighs as much as a mountain.
It’s not just death that can be complex. In the famous star factory found in the constellation Orion, a sort of natural selection is taking place as a new star is born: The stellar wind is actually blowing away material that could form new stars. Inhibiting the growth of astral siblings seems strange. Then again, it turns out there are rings around Jupiter after all.
How much are we in the dark about in deep space? Enlighten yourself with WIRED’s full collection of photos, here.
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