Seen in visible light, the star known as Zeta Ophiuchi is dim, red, and surrounded by inky blackness. But in infrared, the star becomes a bright blue ball of fire topped with a glowing "mustache" of interstellar dust, as seen in a picture, released in January, from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, telescope.
Astronomers think Zeta Ophiuchi was once part of a stellar duo known as a binary pair. Then Zeta Ophiuchi's companion star exploded, releasing Zeta Ophiuchi to go flying away on a fast-tracked solo act through space.
The star is now plowing through a cloud of dust and gas at 15 miles (24 kilometers) a second. As Zeta Ophiuchi moves, its powerful radiation is compressing the gas and dust in its path, creating a bow shock that shines in infrared.
(Also see "Hubble Telescope Catches Superfast Runaway Star.")