More Zeta Puppis
As stars go, our Sun is well above average. It's bigger, hotter, and heavier than most of the stars in our galaxy. Yet a few stars make the Sun look dull by comparison.
An example is a star called Zeta Puppis -- Zeta Pup for short. It's about 1400 light-years away in the constellation Puppis, which represents a part of the ship that carried Jason and the Argonauts.
Zeta Pup is far bigger, hotter, and more massive than the Sun. Perhaps most interesting, it zooms across the sky at breakneck speed.
Zeta Pup is a type of star called a supergiant. It's perhaps 50 times as massive as the Sun. Such monsters "burn" through their nuclear fuel in a hurry, so they live short lives. Zeta Pup is only a few million years old -- compared to four and a half billion years for the Sun -- yet it's already entering the final stages of life.
Such a high-powered star burns hot and bright. Zeta Puppis, in fact, produces almost a million times more energy than the Sun. That energy pushes a lot of the star's gas into space -- enough gas every million years to make a star as massive as the Sun.
Zeta Puppis is racing across the sky at close to 200,000 miles an hour. That may mean that the star once had a companion that exploded as a supernova. The blast sent Zeta Puppis hurtling through the cosmos. Today, it's a good 500 light-years away from its birthplace.
We'll talk about another impressive star in Puppis tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2005, 2008
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