Yesterday, we took a look at a runaway quasar. Today, here’s a look at a runaway star. Zeta Ophiuchi produces the arcing interstellar bow wave or bow shock seen in this infrared false-color portrait. Bluish Zeta Oph, a star about 20 times more massive than the Sun, is near the center of the picture. The star is moving (toward the left of the image) at 24 km/s. Its strong stellar wind precedes it, compressing and heating interstellar dust and shaping it into a curved shock front.
Zeta Oph was likely once a member of a binary star system, and its companion star was probably even more massive and shorter lived. When the companion exploded as a supernova, Zeta Oph was flung out of the system. Zeta Oph is only a few about 460 light-years away and is 65,000 X brighter than the Sun. It would be one of the brighter stars in our sky if it weren’t surrounded by obscuring dust.
Image Credit: NASA