The Hubble Space Telescope spotted a massive nebula that looks like it's filled with smoke generated by cosmic fires. Near this nebula is a bright star that is believed to have come from the collision between two stellar systems.
The star featured in the photo taken by NASA and the European Space Agency's (ESA) premiere telescope has been identified as AE Aurigae. Surrounding this bright star is a massive cosmic cloud known as the Flaming Star Nebula.
The Bright Blue Dwarf Star
Located about 1,500 light-years from Earth, AE Aurigae is a dwarf star. Many astronomers believe that it is a runaway star that was flung from its original located by the massive collision between two binary star systems. According to NASA, AE Aurigae is so bright that it appears blue in Hubble's photo. It also produces high-energy light that's capable of pushing away the atoms and other cosmic materials surrounding it.
"The bright star AE Aurigae is visible near the nebula centre and is so hot it is blue, emitting light so energetic it knocks electrons away from atoms in the surrounding gas," the agency explained in a statement. "When an atom recaptures an electron, light is emitted creating the surrounding emission nebula."
Forming The Smokey Nebula
The massive cloud surrounding AE Aurigae is known as the Flaming Star Nebula. Despite its name, this cosmic structure is not actually on fire. Instead, the massive clouds that look like giant plumes of smoke are actually composed of mainly hydrogen. They also contain other materials such as dust grains rich in carbon. It is possible that the nebula appears this way due to the high-energy light being emitted by the AE Aurigae.
"Fire, typically defined as the rapid molecular acquisition of oxygen, happens only when sufficient oxygen is present and is not important in such high-energy, low-oxygen environments," NASA stated. "The material that appears as smoke is mostly interstellar hydrogen, but does contain smoke-like dark filaments of carbon-rich dust grains."