Above, new imagery from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE): the red-colored thingie in the middle might be visually interpreted as a blood-red jellyfish or a pair of lips, but it's really a sphere of stellar innards blown out by a gigantic star...
The star (white dot in center of red ring) is one of the most massive stellar residents of our Milky Way galaxy. Objects like this are called Wolf-Rayet stars, after the astronomers who found the first few, and they make our sun look puny by comparison. Called V385 Carinae, this star is 35 times as massive as our sun, with a diameter nearly 18 times as large. It's hotter, too, and shines with more than one million times the amount of light.
Fiery candles like this burn out quickly, leading short lives of only a few million years. As they age, they blow out more and more of the heavier atoms cooking inside them—atoms such as oxygen that are needed for life as we know it.
More about the image, and the astronomy behind it, here at the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) website.
Related: There's a nice new website up for NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, with tons of eye-popping images!
(thanks, Whitney Clavin/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and thanks George Ruiz!)
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