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©2007 by Richard Nolle


WOW!AUG 20, 2007 - Star With a Comet's Tail details a recent discovery made by astronomers using NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) space telescope, an ultraviolet instrument. GALEX has revealed a raft of amazing phenomena already, but this latest one is a real stunner: a speeding star tearing along at 130 kilometers per second (291,000 mph), trailing a comet-like tail more than 13 light-years long - several times the distance from here to the nearest star outside our solar system. The "tail" is in reality a stream of stellar mass blown off by a red giant named Mira A, a variable star in the constellation Cetus. The tail is invisible in ordinary light, which is why no one knew it was there until GALEX turned its ultraviolet lens on Mira A. It's more than a phenomenal sight to see: the stuff blowing off of Mira A will eventually form new stars and planets. That's how it works in the Cosmos: one star's loss is another's gain.

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