An event of cosmic cannibalism is currently happening in the Milky Way, as NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a gigantic star named “Nasty 1” showing strange behavior.
Apparently that’s not all. The Hubble Space Telescope also observed a disk of gas surrounding Nasty 1 of enormous proportions (3 trillion miles). This massive object is known as a Wolf-Rayet star. Nasty 1 is a nickname from its original name NaSt1, after being discovered back in 1963 by astronomers Jason Nassau and Charles Stephenson.
Wolf-Rayets stars start off so massive, that they have around 20 times more mass than the sun. For unknown reasons, their outer layers puff up and expose its helium burning core throughout the depths of space.
Scientists have more hypothesis around this specific event in which Wolf-Rayet stars expose their cores. Some scientists think that strong stellar winds strip off their outer layers made up of hydrogen. But other scientists believe that their outer layers are eaten away from a companion cannibalistic star.
Jon Mauerhan, the study’s lead author from the University of California, Berkeley, states that he believes that this is what exactly is happening at the moment in Nasty 1. He believes that a Wolf-Rayet star exists inside the nebula and experts believe that the nebula is being created by this mass transfer process. This type of cannibalism actually gives Nasty 1 a proper nickname.
Astronomers from NASA stated that they have never observed such a gas like disc surrounding a Wolf-Rayet star and believe that the nebula is a couple of thousand years old being distanced from Earth at about 3,000 light years.
Nathan Smith of the University of Arizona also supports Mauerhan’s statements, explaining that it is harder to believe that the mass loss is directly linked to the traditional wind mechanism, something experts believe isn’t strong as they used to believe.
Mauerhan adds that he doesn’t know what the future holds for Nasty1, but the star’s evolutionary path will not be boring for sure. The Wolf-Rayet star could explode into a supernova or other kinds of exotic possibilities that primary depend on the orbital evolution of the solar system as well as how long the mass transfer will be occurring.