PetaPixel

Remarkable 4-Year Hubble Time-Lapse of a Star’s ‘Light Echo’ Rippling Out in Space

Haters can hate on the click bait words all they want, because the video above is all-but-literally mind-blowing, jaw-dropping and all the rest. Captured over the course of 4 years by the Hubble Space Telescope, it’s a time-lapse that shows a very unusual star’s ‘light echo’ rippling out through space in the most spectacular fashion.

What you’re looking at is the star V838 Monocerotis, or V838 Mon. A once-shy and inconspicuous star, in 2002 it decided to let its light shine… in a big way. And by that we mean it experienced an “outburst” that resulted in the star getting 600,000-times brighter all at once.

Initially thought to be a supernova, this kind of light eruption was unlike anything astronomers had seen before. It got so bright, in fact, that it was for a time one of the most luminous stars in the entire Milky Way. But what you’re seeing here isn’t that brightening and subsequent dimming, which only took a couple of months. What we see here is what’s called a “light echo.”

v838_1

A light echo happens with any object in space that brightens very quickly, such as a nova or a supernova. The light from the star itself reaches us first, but if there is dust and other stellar debris around the star, some light is reflected from the clouds and takes a bit longer to reach us.

As explained on Wikipedia (and well-sourced, I might add) “the reflected light arrives later, producing a vision of expanding rings of light around the erupted object.”

The light echo caused by V838 Mon was, in a word, unprecedented. What’s more, because the star got so bright so quickly, and the event was so unusual in nature, all telescopes were trained on it.

The result is footage like the time-lapse you see above, that shows this awe-inspiring light echo rippling out through the stellar debris surrounding the star, some 20,000 light years away from our pale blue dot.


 
Get the hottest photo stories delivered to your inbox.
Get a daily digest of the latest headlines:
  • http://italobrito.tumblr.com/ Ítalo Brito

    “literally mind-blowing”?

  • DLCade

    I believe what I wrote was “all-but-literally mind-blowing”

  • Mike

    That Game of Thrones episode is still having an effect, eh?

  • http://www.petersmolenski.com Peter Smolenski

    You couldn’t by any chance mean TIME LAPSE, right? This one was actually one of the only really interesting out of the million I have seen. Wait I mean 10 million. And I do Love petapixel…..just really tired of time-lapse. Petapixel is AWESOME.

  • Brandon Huff

    This was probably one of the best things I’ve seen in a long while.

  • Bill Binns

    I wonder if Hubble photos so often look like they were shot with a cross screen star filter for some technical reason or because someone at JPL has terrible taste?

  • iowapipe

    ???? Technical of course. You can look it up easily.

  • Laurence M

    as if he thought someone was photoshopping them! lol