Runaway Star!

And no, not the spoiled-teenage-actor type… Instead, it’s this:

WISE, or the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, captured a quickly moving star creating a bow-shock as it plows through interstellar gas and dust. Dust is “warm,” not as hot as stars, and thus can glow in infrared light while being invisible to optical telescopes. The dust in the bow-shock is even warmer than the surrounding material as Zeta Ophiuchi rushes through.

What else glows in infrared light?

Well, you do, and an infrared camera can show you that as well.

This camera takes the difference between two infrared images of different wavelengths to tell you temperature.

Just a little more of what you can see when you study the “invisible light” in the universe!

Thanks to my officemate Genevieve for posing for this shot!

3 comments for “Runaway Star!

  1. January 25, 2011 at 20:51

    I still can’t wrap my head around how “shock” wave propagate through the relative emptiness of space. I mean actual dust particles would have to continuously come into contact with other dust particles to keep the wave propagating, no? How “dusty” is this region of space?

    David

    • Nicole
      January 26, 2011 at 17:36

      That is a darn good question that I don’t think I have the full answer to. The average density of the interstellar medium is approximately one atom per cubic centimeter. So, very empty compared to the air we breathe, but there’s still stuff there. In a particularly dusty region as this may be, it can be a bit higher.

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