The Big Picture: Say hello to NASA's 'nastiest' star

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In this article: NASA, space, stars, wolf-rayet
The Big Picture: Say hello to NASA's 'nastiest' star

NASA's "Nasty 1" isn't like other stars. Bigger than our Sun but barely older than humanity itself, this unusual celestial body sits just about 3,000 light years away from Earth. And while it's certainly similar to other Wolf-Rayet stars, which are identifiable by their lack of an outer hydrogen-rich sheath and exposed superheated helium core, those have never been observed in the Milky Way with an accretion disc like Nasty's. (See that thing above? That's an accretion disc.)

Astronomers believe that this disc is the result of an exceedingly rare occurrence wherein two Wolf-Rayets form within the same solar system and one star's hydrogen fuel is siphoned off by its smaller companion. "We were excited to see this disk-like structure because it may be evidence for a Wolf-Rayet star forming from a binary interaction," study leader Jon Mauerhan of UC Berkeley said in a statement. "There are very few examples in the galaxy of this process in action because this phase is short-lived, perhaps lasting only a hundred thousand years, while the timescale over which a resulting disk is visible could be only ten thousand years or less."
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