The wonders of space never cease to amaze us--or to challenge our ideas about the cosmos.
In the video above, a star 20,000 light-years from Earth explodes, lighting up the surrounding interstellar dust to create a stunning light echo.
What makes this starburst especially awesome is that it remains a puzzle to astronomers. According to the Hubble website, scientists still don't fully understand why the stellar explosion occurred. Initially, they thought it was a nova, a relatively common outburst. But now they realize it was something quite different.
From the website:
A typical nova is a normal star that dumps hydrogen onto a compact white-dwarf companion star. The hydrogen piles up until it spontaneously explodes by nuclear fusion -- like a titanic hydrogen bomb. This exposes a searing stellar core, which has a temperature of hundreds of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit.
By contrast, V838 Monocerotis did not expel its outer layers. Instead, it grew enormously in size. Its surface temperature dropped to temperatures that were not much hotter than a light bulb. This behavior of ballooning to an immense size, but not losing its outer layers, is very unusual and completely unlike an ordinary nova explosion.
Hubble has been wowing us with its images since its launch in 1990. Just last week, a breathtaking Hubble image of roughly 10,000 galaxies was released.