Death throes of star observed

April 26, 2012 at 6:35 PM   |   Comments

PASADENA, Calif., April 26 (UPI) -- U.S. astronomers say they've observed an aging star erupting with dust, a natural part of aging for stars that will eventually happen to our own sun.

As stars like our sun puff up into red giants near the end of their lives, the astronomers said, they shed dust that is later recycled back into other stars, planets, and in the case of our solar system, living creatures.

The star was discovered by an international team of researchers in images taken in 2010 NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported Thursday.

"We were not searching specifically for this phenomenon, but because WISE scanned the whole sky, we can find such unique objects," Poshak Gandhi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA said.

The star recently exploded with copious amounts of fresh dust equivalent in mass to our planet Earth that is being heated by the star and glowing with infrared light, astronomers said.

"Observing this period of explosive change while it is actually ongoing is very rare," study co-author Issei Yamamura of JAXA said. "These dust eruptions probably occur only once every 10,000 years in the lives of old stars, and they are thought to last less than a few hundred years each time. It's the blink of an eye in cosmological terms."

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