Some stars live fast and look beautiful doing it before they die young in a brilliant explosion. AG Carinae, a blue giant star located 20,000 light-years from Earth in the Milky Way galaxy, is one of those stars.
This bright star’s explosive infamous temper tantrums are part of what make it so scintillating.
The Hubble Space Telescope captured an image of one of the star’s outbursts to celebrate the observatory’s 31st anniversary since launching into space on April 24, 1990.
AG Carinae is one of the brightest stars in our galaxy — radiating the light of 1 million suns — and it’s about 70 times more massive than our sun. It’s also a rare one. There are fewer than 50 such stars across the Milky Way and its neighboring galaxies.
But this much brilliant light comes at a cost, as the star burns through energy at a ferocious rate. The star lashes out, expanding in size and releasing its outer layers into space. It’s in a constant battle with itself — mainly its own gravity and radiation — to keep from collapsing in self-destruction. The star’s massive size and blazing hot temperatures also factor into this tug of war.
The pressure of radiation inside the star pushes out and gravity pushes in, causing the star to expand and contract. If the outward pressure is the winning force, it causes the star to puff up and explode its outer layers.
AG Carinae is surrounded by a large, glowing gas and dust shell as a result of giant eruptions that took place 10,000 years ago. The gas and dust that comprise the shell equals 10 times the mass of our sun.
This shell is five light-years wide, or the distance between Earth and its nearest star aside from the sun, known as Proxima Centauri.