Photo in the News: Red Star Light Burst

Image: Red Star
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February 3, 2005—In an image released today, a flash of light from the red supergiant star in the middle of the image illuminates giant clouds of dust in space.

The red star V838 Mon is about 20,000 light-years away from Earth at the outer edge of our Milky Way galaxy. It gave off a pulse of light in 2002, which caused the normally faint star to become 600,000 times more luminous than our sun—"somewhat similar to setting off a flashbulb in a darkened room," Hubble Space Telescope researchers said in a news release today.

As the light pulse spreads through the universe it lights up objects farther from the star, such as these dust clouds. The effect is called a light echo.

These dust clouds may have been ejected from the star during a previous explosion similar to the 2002 event.

—David Braun

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