A Star Near The End of It’s Life
The Hubble Space Telescope recently captured this amazing image of a star nearing the end of it’s life. The above image is of a star known as U Camelopardalis. It is located near the North Celestial Pole and can be found in the constellation Camelopardalis – also known as The Giraffe.
A star nears the end of it’s life when it begins to run low on fuel and becomes unstable. When a star becomes unstable, it begins to throw off spherical shells of gas into the space surrounding the star. U Cam is a great example of this phenomenon. Take a close look at the image above. The light colored ring is the outer edge of a bubble of gas that has been ejected by the star.
U Cam is a rare type of star known as a carbon star. A carbon star is a star in the end stages of life similar to a red giant in which the atmosphere contains more carbon than oxygen. In these types of stars, carbon and oxygen combine in the outer atmosphere forming carbon monoxide. This process consumes most of the free oxygen leaving mainly carbon available to form other compounds. This gives the star a sooty or reddish appearance.
While the future of U Cam is not certain, it will most likely blow out it’s outer atmosphere, forming a planetary nebula, with a white dwarf star in the center. Check back in a few million years or so and we’ll let you know what happened!
Image Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA and H. Olofsson (Onsala Space Observatory)