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Weird Star

Paul Kohlmiller


 

A very unusual binary star has been caught in the act of creating a spiral shape. It’s a dim object, it took 33 minutes on a Hubble camera to create the picture seen here. But why is it even that bright? There is so much material, the material creating the spiral shape, that the binary stars cannot light it up. Astronomers think that the object, called AFGL 3068, is actually lit up by galactic starlight. What? One reason to believe that is true is that the object is slightly brighter on the side closest to the plane of our galaxy. But what about the bright star in the picture? It’s distance is not known while the dying binary is about 3000 lightyears away. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/09/06/awesome-death-spiral-of-a-bizarre-star/

We became aware of this story via Dr. Phil Plait, the originator of the Bad Astronomy website. This gives us a chance to mention Phil’s latest venture, a TV series named Bad Universe. The first episode was “previewed” on August 29 on the Discovery Channel but if you are like us, you missed it. At SETIcon I was within 5 feet of Dr. Plait and still didn’t find out the air date until it had passed. What to do? Well, the next showing has apparently not been scheduled as of mid-September. But you can catch video snippets at: http://dsc.discovery.com/search/results.html?focus=video&query=bad+universe .

You may know that Phil Plait resigned as president of the James Randi Educational Foundation to work on this series and we hope to see many more installments in the near future.

 


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