900 light-years away from Earth, there is a star taking its final steps towards rebirth.
The huge star dubbed U Antilae is located in the southern constellation Antilia. U Antiliae is taking its last steps towards becoming a white dwarf following the combustion of all of the hydrogen and helium in its core.
What makes U Antiliae notable is that a few millennia ago, the star erupted generating a massive glowing bubble. The phenomena were discovered by astronomers using the European Southern Observatory’s Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The array is a large network of radio telescopes located in Chile.
“Around 2,700 years ago, U Antliae went through a short period of rapid mass loss,” said officials at the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO). “During this period of only a few hundred years, the material making up the shell seen in the new ALMA data was ejected at high speed. Examination of this shell in further detail also shows some evidence of thin, wispy gas clouds known as filamentary substructures.”
Using data from ALMA, EOS officials have constructed a 3D “data cube”. The highly detailed model has allowed researchers to discover that inside U Antiliae’s bubble, gasses are moving toward and away from the observer. Researchers have also discovered that these “pulses” of gases are moving at different speeds. These observations and many like them are giving researchers a better understanding of how galaxies and stars evolve over time.
“Shells such as the one around U Antliae show a rich variety of chemical compounds based on carbon and other elements,” said EOS officials. “They also help to recycle matter and contribute up to 70 percent of the dust between stars.”
Image Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/F. Kerschbaum