Monday, 20 November 2017

IC405 and the runaway star

AE Auriga is a very peculiar giant star. It's radius 7 times solar is quite impressive and its 23 solar masses make it definitely a member of the most massive stars club. But this is not the main reason why this star's so out of the ordinary. What does make it so special is that it travels through our corner of the galaxy (well, 1,700 light-years away) at the breakneck speed of 200km/s! Now, if we take the star's estimated age of 2,2 million years and trace its movement all the way back, we find that it originated somewhere in the vicinity of the Orion Nebula! Until recently it was believed that AE Auriga, with Mu Columbae and 53 Arietis, were hurled out of the Orion Nebula together by some sort of cataclysm, like a supernova explosion or a near collision. However, recent measurements by the Hipparchos satellite reveal this to be highly unlikely and the three runaway stars have most probably different origins, albeit still within the Orion complex of star forming regions. 

Currently, our giant star's travelling through a cloud of gas and dust in the constellation of Auriga, the charioteer, which is reflecting its bluish light. The star's high velocity's causing a bow shock and leaves a trail of hot gas in its wake: IC405, better known as the "Flaming Star Nebula". It does seem as if the star's on fire and emitting fumes, isn't it? 

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