Like a zombie, a nearly dead star has briefly sputtered back to life—giving a rare glimpse at what may be in store for our own solar system, a new study says.
Located 5,500 light-years away, the reborn star, known as Abell 30, is at the heart of a planetary nebula—glowing shells of gas and dust cast off by a dying sunlike star.
Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory to peer inside the nebula, astronomers determined that the star had made what first appeared to be its final gasp 12,500 years ago.
But further scrutiny soon revealed bizarre signs—such as spurts of helium—that Abell 30 had undergone a sudden rebirth about 800 years ago.
"Thousands of years after it had sort of quieted down, then something happened that caused it to become unstable and start throwing off more material—lots of denser blobs of star stuff we see inside the shell," said study co-author William Blair, an astronomer at John Hopkins University in Baltimore.
"The chemical composition of these knots tells us they are coming from deep within the star, indicating the [star] ... had become active once again."
But within 20 years the rapid growth stopped, and the star died—part of the normal life cycle of a star.
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