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Wolf-Rayet Cannibal Star And Other Recently Discovered Space Oddities

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Nasty 1, which was first discovered half a century ago, is what astronomers call a Wolf-Rayet star, large and fast-evolving stellar bodies formed by the rapid shedding of their hydrogen-filled outer layers that expose their bright core.

The Wolf-Rayet family of stars is fairly common but Nasty 1, also known as NaSt1, is peculiar. Astronomers who imaged the star using the Hubble Space Telescope were anticipating twin lobes of gas the flow from opposite sides just as what has been seen in other Wolf-Rayet stars. What they found was instead a massive disk of gas that orbits the stellar body.

The nearly 2 trillion mile-wide disk may have formed from an unseen companion star that devours the outer envelop of the newly formed star and leaves behind its cosmic entrails. Current estimates suggest that the nebula surrounding the star is 3,000 light-years away from Earth and is only a few thousand years old.

Jon Mauerhan, from the University of California, Berkeley said that the disk-like structure may provide evidence of a Wolf-Rayet star being formed from a binary interaction. As the star evolves very fast, it starts to run out of hydrogen and swells up in the process.

The star's outer hydrogen envelope then becomes more loosely bound and become prone to gravitational stripping, a type of stellar cannibalism by the companion star. The more compact star eventually gains mass and the initially massive star loses its hydrogen envelope and exposes its helium core becoming a Wolf-Rayet star.

Besides Nasty 1, astronomers have also discovered other cosmic objects that defy expectations. Here are some of them:

Howling zombie stars

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has found a bizarre glow of high-energy X-ray scientists believe could be the "howls" of dead stars feeding on their stellar companions.

The howls appear to be coming from the center of the Milky Way, where cosmic objects swarm around the massive Sagittarius A black hole. Researchers believe that the X-ray could be howls from exceptionally powerful pulsars, stellar zombies that spin very fast and in the process send out beams of radiation.

Stars that touch each other

Although binary star systems are common in the Milky Way, two companion stars that touch each other can be an oddity and this just characterizes the binary system MY Camelopardalis as the hot blue star duo rub against each other while they orbit around the same point.

A star inside another star

HV 2112 is a giant star with another neutron star in its core. Scientists believe that the two used to form a binary star system until the neutron star was swallowed by it red giant companion.

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