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Beyond Earthly Skies

Astrospheres of Evolving Massive Stars

14 Aug 2014, 22:00 UTC
Astrospheres of Evolving Massive Stars
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O-type stars are amongst the most massive and most luminous stars. Isolated O-type stars that move independently through the interstellar medium have a significant influence on their surroundings from the strong stellar winds and ionizing radiation they emit. ζ Ophiuchi is a typical example of an isolated O-type star. It has ~20 times the mass and ~100,000 times the luminosity of the Sun. ζ Ophiuchi moves through the interstellar medium at ~26.5 km/s, generating a bow shock where its strong stellar wind meets the interstellar medium. In the upstream direction, the separation between the star and its bow shock, also know as the standoff distance, is ~5 trillion km, or half a light year. The enormous amount of ionization radiation emitted by ζ Ophiuchi ionizes the surrounding interstellar medium out to a radius of ~30 light years. This is ~60 times larger than the standoff distance and shows that the influence of ζ Ophiuchi extends far beyond its own stellar wind.Figure 1: An overview of the different types of stars as well as their size and the colour with which they shine.Massive O-type stars like ζ Ophiuchi live fast and die young. Although such stars are exceedingly rare, their immense ...

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