back to article Hubble telescope spies massive 'cannonballs' of fire from dying star

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has detected massive, super-hot "cannonballs" shooting from a dying star, which has left scientists puzzled over the source of these giant globs of gas. The fireballs are twice as big as Mars and are travelling so fast, it would only take 30 minutes for them to travel from Earth to the moon, …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    All batteries fire at will

    The corona of a dying star is as good as a "hiding place" for a an attack vessel as any.

    Make your choice of the favourite "cute" alien race. Hive, Prador's King's guard you name it.

    The more interesting question is what is it firing at?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: All batteries fire at will

      If we're exploring that option, there's a simpler explanation.

      Prime Flare Bomb in the corona....

    2. PNGuinn
      Alien

      Re: All batteries fire at will

      Are you suggesting that Sammy's got an extra terrestrial division?

      Have they been taken over by ALIENS?

      Are we all DOOMED?

      Is the dying planet holding the little star wrong?

      Is someone else upset?

      ....

    3. Alan J. Wylie

      Ringworld Engineers

      It's obviously the Ringworld Meteor Defense System in action

    4. Lotaresco
      Coat

      Re: All batteries fire at will

      "The more interesting question is what is it firing at?"

      Well obviously at Commander Riker, if the instruction was to "Fire at Will."

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or it's the interstellar equivalent of ball lightning.

    Plasma is, by definition, an electrically active phenomenon.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      So what object or event is either a) attracting it or b) repelling it?

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        b)

        Repelling a party invitation on Facebook that has snowballed.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Motion in plasma induces currents that create a charge separation known as a double layer, or plasma sheath, a structure that exists between plasmas of opposing electrical charge. As the voltage across the sheath increases, the structure can catastrophicall fail and arc like a bolt of lightning, generating smaller plasmoids - ball lightning - that are accelerated to extreme speeds by the charge differential.

        Were this the reality of the event, it could be viewed as a more energetic equivalent of a solar flare.

  3. Christoph

    Goodness Gracious

    Great Balls of Fire!

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Goodness Gracious

      Who do we petition to rename V Hydrae to J.L.Lewis?

  4. DNTP

    PEW PEW PEW

    Please tell me I wasn't the only one playing this sound effect in my head while looking at that four-stage diagram of the shooting star.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PEW PEW PEW

      Actually Pew Pew reminded me of Trumpton! (Maybe it was the fireballs of plasma)

      Pugh Pugh Barney Mcgrew...

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P5wcCuNZbY

      1. Olius

        Re: PEW PEW PEW

        Pugh, Pugh...

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIIOZ1Cmqlo

        :-D

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Happy

    Some of the most exciting words in science

    "Well I did not expect to see that."

    1. DarkwavePunk

      Re: Some of the most exciting words in science

      Unlike IT where the words "Hrm, that's interesting" are enough to reduce even the most hardened sysadmin to tears on a Friday afternoon.

  6. PaulR79
    Boffin

    Some massively advanced technology at work turning two stars into a limited use plasma gun capable of destroying entire planets in one shot. That or they're playing a stellar game with plasma balls we couldn't possibly comprehend.

    1. Frederic Bloggs

      Relax

      It's just another computer simulation to keep the curious amongst us busy speculating and thus happy. There’ll be another one along soon, just as we get bored with this one.

      1. Frederic Bloggs

        Re: Relax

        PS why is El Reg not using the official units of measure? All this Fahrenheit and Celsius is a bit off - isn't it?

        1. Kurt Meyer

          Re: Relax

          @ Frederic Bloggs

          "PS why is El Reg not using the official units of measure? All this Fahrenheit and Celsius is a bit off - isn't it?"

          I'm sorry sir, I'm afraid we're all out of 'Reg Classic', would you care to try some 'New Reg'?

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      That or they're playing a stellar game with plasma balls we couldn't possibly comprehend.

      It's someone playing Interstellar Bar Billiards, or perhaps testing a Tennis Gun.

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Headmaster

    The host star, V Hydrae, is an expanding red giant clinging to life by burning the last of its hydrogen fuel into helium

    Actually if it is a Red Giant its "burning" has gone to the next level and it is fusing Helium already, and maybe even heavier elements depending on its mass.

    In this case, it seems to be a Carbon Star, an excellent name for the Red Star themed bar I will open one day.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Red Star themed bar

      When, where, and how can I book a table for the opening night?

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Actually if it is a Red Giant its "burning" has gone to the next level and it is fusing Helium already, and maybe even heavier elements depending on its mass.

      Possibly. But it gets complicated on the Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB). Let me quote the Wikipedia entry you link to, "Normally this kind of AGB carbon star fuses hydrogen in a hydrogen burning shell..."

      The dynamics are probably further complicated by the companion.

  8. Winkypop Silver badge
    Flame

    Stars have curry nights too

    Who knew?

  9. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Astrobreaking in progress

    Kicking a planet sized of mass forward really fast during periastron reduces the companion star's velocity, apastron and orbital period. The loss of mass should be small compared to V Hydrae, so these cannon balls should get fired more and more often until the companion's orbit becomes circular. At that point the firing becomes continuous and the companion drops deeper and deeper into V Hydrae. V Hydrae should become more oblate - more mass pulling it tighter, but more spin provided by the companion.

    We will not live long enough to see this happen, but now astronomers know what to look for, they should be able to find similar stars further along the same process.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Astrobreaking in progress

      I was wondering about the energy solutions of this too. Just passing though the outer layers of V Hydrae should slow the companion pretty quickly, decaying its orbit and making this a relatively short-lived phenomenon.

  10. David Roberts
    Alien

    Dying star

    Laying eggs?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plasma, not gas

    While the astronomy community continues to refer to "gases", it will never understand the phenomena it sees, even if it is claims it knows it is really a plasma. Gases obey gas laws and gravity. It is impossible for a star to eject a ball of gas at escape velocity.

    Plasmas on the other hand, which make up 99.999% of the visible universe are strongly influenced by electromagnetic fields, and behave in extraordinary ways compared to gases. This is why the Solar Wind accelerates away from the Sun.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Plasma, not gas

      Commentard advances whole astrophysics community with a single comment. Film at 11.

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Plasma, not gas

      The use is idiomatic in the same way that talking about stars "burning" hydrogen doesn't imply a chemical process producing a flame plasma.

      Another example is astronomers calling anything heavier than hydrogen a "metal".

  12. Mage Silver badge
    Alien

    smaller, invisible companion star

    That's no star—

    …<loss of carrier>

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BIG

    Phuck off Photon torpedoes..

  14. You aint sin me, roit
    Alien

    "OK, so the gun works..."

    "Now we just need to make it manoeuverable..."

  15. Hubert Thrunge Jr.
    Coat

    It's the Arachnids.

    Send in the Starship Troopers quickly......

  16. Olius

    Uranus...

    ...ejects bubbles of plasma much more frequently than that.

    (Sorry)

  17. Tom Paine
    Coat

    Sunday lunch

    ...my mother-in-law's dumplings?

    Mine's the one with the discreetly secreted wrapped-up lunch items in the pockets...

  18. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    My take away from a quick skim of the paper...

    ...is that there seems to be an accretion disk around the primary, and it's the companion passing through the disk that's producing the fireball.

    The paper leaves it open as to whether the companion actually passes inside the primary (a somewhat, ahem, nebulous concept), but it gets close.

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