Since we haven’t had much space news for you lately, the star Mira is here to fill the void. Astronomers made a curious unprecedented discovery recently, a star with a comet-like tail that is 13 light years long:
“Galaxy Evolution Explorer–“GALEX” for short–scanned the popular star during its ongoing survey of the entire sky in ultraviolet light. Astronomers then noticed what looked like a comet with a gargantuan tail. In fact, material blowing off Mira is forming a wake 13 light-years long, or about 20,000 times the average distance of Pluto from the sun. Nothing like this has ever been seen before around a star. ‘I was shocked when I first saw this completely unexpected, humongous tail trailing behind a well-known star,’ says Christopher Martin of the California Institute of Technology. ‘It was amazing how Mira’s tail echoed on vast, interstellar scales the familiar phenomena of a jet’s contrail or a speedboat’s turbulent wake.'”
The material in the star’s tail has been released slowly over the past 30,000 years.
In other news from out there, NASA has concluded that no repairs to the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s belly will be necessary before re-entry next week. The shuttle sustained a 3 1/2-inch-long, 2-inch-wide gouge caused by debris that broke off its external fuel tank upon liftoff.