News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Bizarre Star Discovered to Have Comet-Like Tail



Johnny Appleseed of the Cosmos

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/C. Martin (Caltech)/M. Seibert(OCIW) – “Johnny Appleseed of the Cosmos

The first star discovered with a comet-like tail was announced today by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) team. While exploring the sky in ultraviolet light, GALEX spotted a tail of material streaming behind the binary star Mira, or Omicron Ceti, located 450 light year from the Earth. The red giant member of the binary, Mira A, appears to be ejecting material as it hurtles through the galaxy at 130 kilometers per second (291,000 miles per hour).

The tail visible today stretches nearly 13 light years long, representing an estimated 30,000 years of history. Scientists plan to study the tail to learn more about the evolution of red giants as well as how such tails form in the first place. The discovery came a surprise as such a phenomena had not been predicted before.

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