The Hubble Space Telescope is at it again as it discovered just how bright a fast-aging star a moderate distance away from the Milky Way is. The fast-aging star was something that scientists and astronomers knew existed but until now, didn’t have any solid evidence to reveal just how bright it might have been. It is a definite anomaly in the universe, and it’s name shows that. “Nasty 1” is the name that scientists and astronomers gave to this distant star that is significantly different than the star in our back yard. Unlike the sun, Nasty 1 is breaking down at a significantly faster clip than what others similar to it do. That is due to the outer portion of the star breaking down, leaving the core to be exposed. The helium core of the star is so bright that scientists are left in awe of what they’re seeing.
Interestingly though, it’s how the star was born and the process that the star is breaking down that has so many scientists interested in it. Jon Mauerhan of the University of California, Berkeley pointed out that, “There are very few examples in the galaxy of this process in action because this phase is short-lived, perhaps lasting only a hundred thousand years, while the timescale over which a resulting disk is visible could be only ten thousand years or less.” This find is one that is unique for a host of reasons. However, Mauerhan isn’t the only individual celebrating the findings.
Nathan Smith, who was a co-author of the study, pointed out just how spectacular the find was in terms of locating and studying a star within the Wolf-Rayet family. Wolf-Rayet stars are those which have their helium core exposed from a rapid deterioration of its outer layers. He said of the find through the Hubble’s imagery that, “We’re finding that it is hard to form all the Wolf-Rayet stars we observe by the traditional wind mechanism, because mass loss isn’t as strong as we used to think.” He went on to point out that, “Mass exchange in binary systems seems to be vital to account for Wolf-Rayet stars and the supernovae they make and catching binary stars in this short-lived phase will help us understand this process.”
Mauerhan also pointed out, “We think there is a Wolf-Rayet star buried inside the nebula, and we think the nebula is being created by this mass-transfer process. So this type of sloppy stellar cannibalism makes Nasty 1 a rather fitting nickname.” What scientists and astronomers are seeing with the Nasty 1 star is that it’s essentially feeding off another star like this one is. Scientists have also been working hard to learn more about stars like this because it is estimated that as many as 70% of all stars are a part of a larger two part star system that leaves one feeding on another.
This research is both impressive and important though for a multitude of reasons. As if the Hubble Space Telescope needed anymore validation, it is getting plenty more here with one of the best discoveries in the star study arena as has been made in the last five to ten years. This will without question spark several more studies on the subject of these “Nasty-like” stars, which share Nasty 1’s major qualities. Given that these stars also have such a short lifespan it will be even more interesting for scientists to see a greater portion of the lifecycle of a star like this and possibly can even more new insight into these stars.