Eye of the Stellar Storm

This Hubble telescope image shows a bright star, AG Carinae, surrounded by a red and blue nebula formed from material blown off the star in a past explosion.

AG Carinae is a bright, unstable luminous blue variable star. This rare type of star lives fast and dies young (by stellar standards) over only a few million years. During that time, it will occasionally blow off its outer layers in a violent eruption as a result of the ongoing tug of war between its radiation pressure and gravity. That’s the source for the nebula we see surrounding the star in this image. The red areas of the image are a mixture of hydrogen and nitrogen gas; the blue clumps are cooler pockets of dust shaped by the hotter, faster-moving stellar wind. Zoom in on the image and you can see amazing structural detail in the nebula, evidence of turbulence on a scale of light-years. (Image credit: NASA/ESA/STScI; via Gizmodo)

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