Mysterious disk spotted forming around distant “Nasty 1” star

According to the Next Digit, the Hubble Telescope has detected a rare fast-aging star that could cause a massive eruption deep in outer space. “Nasty 1,” a more fitting nickname derived from its original catalogue name “NaSt1,” was photographed with a large whirling ring of escaped gas circling its white-hot helium core earlier this week.

The star was originally discovered in 1963 and is believed to be only a couple thousand years old. The live-fast and die-young star, classified as a “Wolf-Rayet” star, has engaged in a rare phenomenon with its neighbor, what astronomers refer to as a binary interaction.

In a binary interaction, one donor star starts giving off its outer layers of mass to an accretor star. As this material flows between the two stars, many variables can affect the outcome of the interaction. In some cases, the transfer occurs without incident, but in other cases a cataclysmic eruption can result from a binary interaction.

According to lead author John Mauerhan from the University of California at Berkeley, the disk-shaped structure encircling Nasty 1 is promising evidence of a possible binary interaction. Because the phenomenon is so short-lived, few astronomers ever have the chance to snag a photo of a binary interaction.

The study’s authors came up with a wide range of explanations for the disk observed in the photo, but the best theory explains how the star is quickly evolving due to the rapid loss of its outer hydrogen layers, which serve as a kind of wrapping for the star’s core. In the absence of these layers, the core has begun to expand.

The team at UC Berkeley is captivated by the images of Nasty 1, and they will watch the star closely in the coming years. If the star’s outer hydrogen layers keep dissipating at their current pace, Nasty 1 could meet its fate in a spectacular stellar explosion.