NASA reports a speeding star will shock the galaxy
Moving at high speeds runaway stars reportedly have vast impact on their surroundings as they move through the Milky Way galaxy. NASA‘s Spitzer Space Telescope captured the results of those fast-paced stars in a new picture that reveals the arcs formed when a speeding star “shocks” the area.
The star, named Kappa Cassiopeiae, is said to be a “massive, hot supergiant moving at around 2.5 million mph relative to its neighbors,” as per a formal announcement detailing the event. The streaked red glow left behind when the star moves is distinctive. The residual afterglow comes from something known as bow shocks, which are found ahead of the quickest, largest stars as they speed through space.
Bow shocks are fashioned when the force magnetic fields from a speeding star strike the matter that fills the empty area between stars. Astronomers are able to learn about the conditions surrounding the speeding star from the way the shocks illuminate. Slower moving stars, such as the Sun, have shocks that are invisible at all wavelengths. The Kappa Cassiopeiae, however, creates shocks that may be seen with infrared detectors.
Perhaps most interestingly, the shocks are created four light-years before Kappa Cassiopeiea. This reveals what proportion of an effect its movement has. Proxima Centuri, the nearest star to Earth besides the Sun for example, is approximately four light-years away.
In the photograph, the bow shocks show up as a vivid red color, whereas the light emerald hue comes from carbon molecules, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, in dust clouds that are lit by the light of a star. Some astronomers say the red filaments throughout the nebula, crossing the bow shock, are actually revealing various features of our galaxy’s magnetic flux. Astronomers rely on these fluky bow shocks and similar cosmic occurences to reveal the structure of the otherwise invisble magnetic fields as they connect with the encircling gas and dust. Kappa Cassiopeiae may be seen with the naked eye but the bow shocks are solely visible within the infrared light spectrum.
(Image courtesy of NASA/JPL)