At times, the drama of dying among celebrities may be rather unnerving. This photo of CW Leonis, the elderly red giant star, appears to be from a Halloween story. The star appears to be encased among wispy orange spider webs that wrap around it. Like sunbeams on a partially overcast day, rays of light shine through the dust. The star burps shells of sooty carbon into space when it runs out of fuel. As a byproduct of nuclear fusion, the carbon was cooked up in the star’s core.
Soot is an annoyance for everyone who has a fireplace. Carbon ejected into space, on the other hand, offers raw material for the construction of future stars, planets, and maybe life. Carbon atoms are coupled with other common elements to form complex living compounds on Earth. In truth, it’s a shot of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope taken of the red giant star CW Leonis just in time for Halloween with spooky celestial vistas.
The dusty clouds of sooty carbon enveloping the fading star are the orange-red cobwebs. They were formed by CW Leonis’ outer layers being ejected out into the inky black abyss. A carbon-rich atmosphere is created by nuclear fusion in the star’s interior. The return of carbon to space offers raw material for the development of future stars and planets.
One of the star’s most remarkable aspects is the strong beams of light that radiate forth from CW Leonis. They’ve changed brightness during a 15-year timeframe, which is an extremely small period from an astronomical perspective. According to astronomers, holes in the dust shrouding CW Leonis may let starlight beams pierce through and highlight dust, similar to searchlight beacons through a murky sky. However, the precise source of the drastic fluctuations in their brightness remains unknown.
The closest carbon star, CW Leonis, is 400 light-years away from Earth. This allows scientists to better comprehend the interaction between the star and its tumultuous environment. The magnetic field of the star can form the complicated interior structure of shells and arcs. CW Leonis’ thorough Hubble scans over the last two decades also indicate strands of ejected debris wrapping around the star.
When the outward pressure from the fusion furnace in the core balances against the crush of gravity, a star glows. When a star’s hydrogen fuel runs gone, the star begins to collapse due to the constant pull of gravity. As the core decreases, the shell of plasma around it heats up enough to start fusing hydrogen, reviving the star. It creates enough heat to cause the star’s outer layers to drastically expand, causing it to inflate into a bloated red giant.
Because of its low surface temperature of 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit, CW Leonis has an orange-reddish hue. The star’s green-tinted light beams, on the other hand, shine at infrared wavelengths that are not visible. In the lack of natural color, green has been added to the infrared picture for improved color-contrast analysis.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a NASA-ESA international cooperative project. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, oversees Hubble’s science activities.