Sunday, March 7, 2021

The Flaming Star Nebula

The Flaming Star Nebula (also known as IC 405, Sh2-229, and Caldwell 31) is an emission and reflection nebula, located at a distance of around 1,500 years in the constellation of Auriga.

The five light-years across nebula surrounds AE Aurigae (abbreviated to AE Aur), a type O9.5V star, with a mass of 23 solar masses and a temperature of 33,000 Kelvin. The star is responsible for powering the nebula, forming an amazing combination of emission/reflection regions.

AE Aur is a runaway star that was probably ejected during a collision of two binary stars. Models for such procedure suggest that this happened around two million years ago, and its trace points that it took place in the Trapezium cluster, in the Orion Nebula.

Thus, AE Aur was not formed at the Flaming Star Nebula, but instead is a passing by visitor. Due to its high speed, the star produces a bow shock which heats up and compresses its immediate environment.

Image: Composite optical image of the Flaming Star Nebula and AE Aur, taken with the National Science Foundation 0.9m telescope, at Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona. AE Aur is the bright blue star at the centre of the image. The image was created using narrow band filters that are focused on the emission of oxygen (violet), hydrogen (yellow), and sulfur (blue) gas.

Image Credit: T. A. Rector and B. A. Wolpa/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

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