A fiery outburst. Cosmos sprayed with dusts. These are just some of the images National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently revealed that they were able to capture with the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, otherwise known as WISE, at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The images of a star erupting help scientists better understand the impact of stars and their role in universe-building.
The star seen in the images captured by NASA was first discovered during a 2010 WISE Survey.
"We were not searching specifically for this phenomenon, but because WISE scanned the whole sky, we can find such unique objects," remarked Poshak Gandhi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in a prepared statement.
Results show that the star recently exploded with a large amount of dust, equal to the mass of the Earth. The dust heats up from the star, making the dust glow from the infrared light.
"Observing this period of explosive change while it is actually ongoing is very rare," commented co-author Issei Yamamura of JAXA in the statement. "These dust eruptions probably occur only once every 10,000 years in the lives of old stars, and they are thought to last less than a few hundred years each time. It's the blink of an eye in cosmological terms."
The eruption of stars into dust is just one of the ways in which dust is recycled in the universe.
"It's an intriguing glimpse into the cosmic recycling program," noted Bill Danchi, WISE program scientist, in the statement. "Evolved stars, which this one appears to be, contribute about 50 percent of the particles that make up humans."
Researchers hope to follow up and gather more information on the star in the images. They hope to learn more about how dust is recycled by older stars. WISE is managed and operated by with the principal investigator, Edward Wright, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.