RUNAWAY STAR PLOWING THROUGH THE DEPTHS OF SPACE
Photo Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) Space Telescope: CLICK for larger image and look below for links and information.
Runaway star CW Leo is on the move….it’s plowing through the cosmos from right to left in this ultraviolet image at 204,000 mph (91 kilometers per second). That’s so fast that a superheated shell of material called in general; an astrosphere (for our Sun it’s called the heliosphere). It’s a circumstellar sphere of material consisting of termination shock, astrosheath, astropause, bow shock and astrotail. At 2.7 light years in diameter, this bubble is more than half the distance from the Sun to the Centauri system or about 2100 times the diameter of the orbit of Pluto.
The shell of material isn’t unusual as it’s the natural progression of a star’s life cycle. This star has been shedding its outer layers for approximately 70,000 years, and in the end a white dwarf will be left at its center. CW Leo is one of the brightest infrared objects in the night sky, however because of the carbon rich cloud that the dying star is buried in that doesn’t translate into any brightness in optical light.
NAME: CW Leonis, CW Leo, IRC + 10216, RAFGL 1381.
WHAT IS IT?: Red Giant Carbon Star near the end of its life.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: Roughly 450 light years distant.
HOW BIG IS IT?: 2.7 light years in diameter.
APPARENT MAGNITUDE?: Mira Variable star whose magnitude changes from 10.9 to 14.8 over a period of 630 days.
WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Leo the “Lion”.
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 09h 47m 57.406s / DEC +13° 16′ 43.56″.
GALEX page for this image: http://www.galex.caltech.edu/media/glx2012-03r_img02.html
NASA/JPL Photojournal page for this image: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA15417
SIMBAD page for this object: http://simbad.u-strasbg.fr/simbad/sim-id?Ident=V*+CW+Leo
Great article from The Astrophysical Journal on this star: http://iopscience.iop.org/2041-8205/711/2/L53/article;jsessionid=D5FB93C2A4C4645E54117484D7F0B2DA.c2
Astronomy & Astrophysics research page for this star: http://www.aanda.org/articles/aa/full/2006/31/aa4577-05/aa4577-05.html
PhysOrg research page on this star: http://phys.org/news/2011-03-rich-chemistry-evolved-star.html
AAVSO data page on this star: http://www.aavso.org/vsx/index.php?view=detail.top&oid=17154