Sometimes, what's written in the stars is a story of death and destruction.
An image from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope shows the scenic aftermath of two stars' stellar tussle. The stars in binary system HD101584 are at the center where the bright green dot is located. The bubbles of colors represent an unusual gas cloud that captured scientists' attention.
A team of astronomers led by Hans Olofsson of the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden figured out how the stars created what the European Southern Observatory called "a complex and stunning gas environment" as seen in the ALMA image. The ESO is one of the operators of ALMA.
The tale begins with the main star swelling up into a red giant, part of the death process. It got so big it swallowed its companion.
"In response, the smaller star spiraled in towards the giant's core but didn't collide with it," the ESO said in a statement Wednesday. "Rather, this maneuver triggered the larger star into an outburst, leaving its gas layers dramatically scattered and its core exposed."
HD101584 is helping scientists learn more about the death rituals of stars. For the rest of us, it's a reminder of how wild and gorgeous the universe can be.
Originally published Feb. 5, 10:05 a.m. PT.