Image of the Day: A Colossal Star Destined to Become a Black Hole
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February 29, 2012

Image of the Day: A Colossal Star Destined to Become a Black Hole

 

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The breathtakingly beautiful Cocoon Nebula is located about 4,000 light years away toward the constellation of Cygnus. Hidden inside the Cocoon is a newly developing open cluster of stars dominated by a massive star in the center of the above image that opened a hole in an existing molecular cloud through which much of the glowing material flows. The same star, which formed about 100,000 years ago, provides the energy source for much of the emitted and reflected light from this nebula.

Massive stars shine steadily until the hydrogen has fused to form helium ( it takes billions of years in a small star, but only millions in a massive star), when it  becomes a red supergiant and starts off with a helium core surrounded by a shell of cooling, expanding gas. 

Over the next million years a series of nuclear reactions occur forming different elements in shells around the iron core. When the core collapses in less than a second, it causes an explosion called a Supernova, in which a shock wave blows of the outer layers of the star. If the core -between 1.5 - 3 solar masses- survives, it contracts to become a neutron star. If the core is much greater than 3 solar masses, the core contracts to become a black hole.

Image Credits: Jean-Charles Cuillandre (CFHT), Hawaiian Starlight, CFHT

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Comments

I'm not trying to be a troll and I know there are source limitations to your being able to do this, but I really wish when you guys posted an image of the day you could put it some awesome resolution that lends itself to a desktop or even just provide a link where that could be retrieved from. Now that I've griped, though, I love the site and you guys do fantastic work!

This is really a spectacular image! By the way, I'm so glad you've meshed with gmail as it makes it so much easier for me to send these images on.

Really,a little fact that i picked up is that Hyrdogen under many million atmospheres and Million of Degress actually acts as a Metallic Hydrogen Plasma than forming Helium.

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