When the folks monitoring the Hubble Space Telescope name a star “Nasty,” you just know there has to be a good reason for that. Stars are usually considered magical and there’s even songs penned about how they twinkle and make you feel good. These bright spots in the sky have been coupled with happy endings in religious stories, so why name a star Nasty? It appears this twinkling ball of light fits that bill!
According to The Washington Post on May 23, the star nicknamed Nasty by the folks operating the Hubble Telescope has a pancake-shaped disc around it which they believe is one huge disk of gas. Nasty is a Wolf-Rayet star, which is a star that appears as “twin lobes of gas flowing from opposite sides of the star.”
This was explained in a new paper on Nasty published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society last week. This disk is no tiny cloud, as it’s estimated to cover about 3 trillion miles with Nasty smack dab in the middle.
Nasty is a “rapidly aging star,” reports MSN News, and it is also a massive star that is demonstrating a “strange appearance and an unprecedented behavior,” according to the new study.
Wolf-Rayet stars originate as big stars, but their outer layers are soon lost leaving a helium-burning core exposed in space. In Nasty’s case they think that outer layer of gas is cannibalized by a companion star.
That’s what we think is happening in Nasty 1,” explains Jon Mauerhan, of the University of California, Berkeley, who is the lead author in this study. “We think there is a Wolf-Rayet star buried inside the nebula, and we think the nebula is being created by this mass-transfer process. So this type of sloppy stellar cannibalism actually makes Nasty 1 a rather fitting nickname.”
This is the first time a disc is seen surrounding a Wolf-Rayet star making Nasty very unusual. It is young in the scope of the age of other stars, as the experts believe it is only a few thousand years old. As far as the distance Nasty is from Earth, that would be 3,000 light years away.
The cannibalistic star hypothesis is the leading theory when it comes to what is going on with Nasty. Another hypothesis offers the possibility of a stellar wind taking that layer of gas away. Scientists have taken the stellar wind hypothesis and put it to work with a model, which indicated the winds weren’t strong enough to “push it to Wolf-Rayet status,” according to MSN. This leaves the cannibal-like scenario their best theory to go on today.