Hubble Telescope Captures Photo of Big Blue Bubble Surrounding a Wolf-Rayet StarBy Russell Westerholm, UniversityHerald Reporter
The Hubble Telescope spotted a big blue "bubble" surrounding a stunning Wolf-Rayet star and now NASA shared the image with the public.
WR 31a, as it is officially known, is about 30,000 light years from Earth and appears to be in the prime of its life. Wolf-Rayet stars live relatively short lives before losing mass rapidly and exploding in a supernova.
"The distinctive blue bubble appearing to encircle WR 31a is a Wolf-Rayet nebula - an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gases," NASA said in a news release describing the image. "Created when speedy stellar winds interact with the outer layers of hydrogen ejected by Wolf-Rayet stars, these nebulae are frequently ring-shaped or spherical. The bubble - estimated to have formed around 20,000 years ago - is expanding at a rate of around 220,000 kilometers (136,700 miles) per hour!"
The bubble, known as a Wolf-Rayet nebula, is the striking part of the photo and gets its look from WR 31a undermining its gasses, according to The Washington Post.
"Unfortunately, the lifecycle of a Wolf-Rayet star is only a few hundred thousand years - the blink of an eye in cosmic terms," NASA stated in its release. "Despite beginning life with a mass at least 20 times that of the sun, Wolf-Rayet stars typically lose half their mass in less than 100,000 years. And WR 31a is no exception to this case. It will, therefore, eventually end its life as a spectacular supernova, and the stellar material expelled from its explosion will later nourish a new generation of stars and planets."