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Speeding star creating shock wave in new image from NASA

Feb. 21, 2014 at 4:33 PM   |   Comments

PASADENA, Calif., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A runaway star plunging through the Milky Way galaxy has created a giant shock wave, captured in an image from the Spitzer Space Telescope, NASA says.

The speeding star is known as Kappa Cassiopeiae -- a massive, hot supergiant moving at around 2.5 million mph relative to its neighbors -- the space agency reported.

What stands out in the Spitzer image, NASA said, is a surrounding, streaky red glow of material in its path, a structure called a bow shocks often seen in front of the fastest, most massive stars in the galaxy.

Bow shocks form where the magnetic fields and wind of particles flowing off a star collide with the diffuse and usually invisible gas and dust that fill the space between stars.

The bow shock of Kappa Cassiopeiae if 4 light-years ahead of the star, demonstrating the power of the impact the star is having on its surroundings, NASA said.

Kappa Cassiopeiae is visible to the naked eye in the Cassiopeia constellation, but don't bother looking for the bow shock, NASA said -- it only shows up in infrared light, as in the Spitzer image.

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