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Stellar Flash-Bulb  

Mercury, May/June 2003 Table of Contents

space bull's-eye
Courtesy of NASA, ESA, and Howard Bond (STScI).

by Robert Naeye

A bizarre star erupts in Monoceros, creating a beautiful bull's-eye in space.

When I first saw these spectacular Hubble Space Telescope images at an astronomy conference this past January, my initial reaction was "Oh my gosh!" My second reaction was that I was seeing the expansion of a nebula, perhaps resulting from a stellar explosion such as a nova or supernova.

Wrong! In reality, there is nothing moving or expanding at all. Instead, we're seeing light echoes. As light from the central star sweeps outward through the surrounding cloud, it is reflected toward Earth by successive shells of dust.

 
 

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