The Hubble space telescope has delivered quite a few spectacular nebulae shots over the years. We’ve seen a lagoon, a butterfly, a prawn and the moving “Pillars of Creation.” We can now add an ethereal blue bubble to the cast list of Hubble space stunners. Star WR 31a was captured by Hubble in one mesmerizing image made public by NASA during this week. Perhaps the most captivating detail in the Hubble Space Telescope snapshot is the blue bubble seemingly surrounding the star WR 31a. Astronomers from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) imaged this beautiful Wolf-Rayet star. Wolf-Rayet stars are at least 20 times more massive than our own sun and have a short lifespan, about a few hundred thousand years (that’s young in astronomical terms!). The adage “live fast and die young” can be best applied to these large, bright stars.
Star WR 31a is located 30,000 light years from us. It is also part of a category of stars which are conventionally known to be quite large. Their mass reaches 20 times the mass of the Sun. As for the blue bubble surrounding the WR 31a, it is a Wolf-Rayet nebula according to the U.S. space agency. The Wolf-Rayet nebula comprises hydrogen, dust and helium in large proportions in addition to other gases. Wolf-Rayet nebulas form as speedy space winds are racing to interact with the layers of hydrogen which are ejected by the surrounding stars.
Star WR 31a was captured by Hubble in one mesmerizing image. The blue bubble circling the large mass star formed approximately 20,000 years ago. The U.S. space agency declared that the Wolf-Rayet nebula is expanding by 220,000 kilometers per hour. Such objects are known to be either spherical or shaped as a ring. Before they die, however, Wolf-Rayet stars expel an interstellar cloud of gases (mainly hydrogen and helium, as well as other gases). When the stellar wind interacts with the hydrogen that’s been ejected, it creates a beautiful ringed nebula, by definition, a cloud. “The bubble — estimated to have formed around 20,000 years ago — is expanding at a rate of around 220,000 kilometers (136,700 miles) per hour!” NASA notes with enthusiasm. The space agency describes the material making up the bubble as “an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gases”. Star WR 31a is located in the Carina constellation. The Hubble Space Telescope image may have captured the blue bubble-like nebula and its star just in time.