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This image from the Spitzer Space Telescope (left panel) shows the "bow shock" of a dying star named R Hydrae (R Hya) in the constellation Hydra.
Bow shocks are formed where the stellar wind from a star are pushed into a bow shape (illustration, right panel) as the star plunges through the gas and dust between stars. Our own Sun has a bow shock, but prior to this image one had never been observed around this particular class of red giant star.
R Hya moves through space at approximately 50 kilometers per second. As it does so, it discharges dust and gas into space. Because the star is relatively cool, that ejecta quickly assumes a solid state and collides with the interstellar medium. The resulting dusty nebula is invisible to the naked eye but can be detected using an infrared telescope.
This bow shock is 16,295 AU from the star to the apex and 6,188 AU thick. 1 AU is the distance between the Sun and the Earth. The mass of the bow shock is about 400 times the mass of the Earth.
The false-color Spitzer image shows infrared emissions at 70 microns. Brighter colors represent greater intensities of infrared light at that wavelength. The location of the star itself is drawn onto the picture in the black "unobserved" region in the center.
Red Giant Plunging Through Space
|Author||NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Ueta (Univ. of Denver)|
(Reusing this file)
see https://gallery.spitzer.caltech.edu/Imagegallery/image.php?image_name=sig06-029 High quality tif files also avaliable.
|This file is in the public domain because it was solely created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that "NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted". (See Template:PD-USGov, NASA copyright policy page or JPL Image Use Policy.)||
|Orientation of image||1|
|Image resolution in width direction||300|
|Image resolution in height direction||300|
|Unit of X and Y resolution||2|
|Color space information||65535|
|Exif image width||3000|
|Exif image length||2400|
|Software used||Adobe Photoshop CS2 Macintosh|
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