Runaway star Zeta Ophiuchi produces the arcing interstellar bow shock wave that shows up in this false-color infrared portrait. Bluish Zeta Oph, a star about 20 times more massive than the Sun, is near the center of the picture. It is moving toward the image’s left at 24 km/s. Its strong stellar wind precedes it, compressing and heating the dusty interstellar material into a curved shock front.
What set this star in motion? Zeta Oph was probably a part of a binary star system with a companion star that was more massive and shorter lived. When the companion went supernova, Zeta Oph was flung out on its present course. Zeta Oph is 65,000 times brighter than the Sun, and, even though it’s about 460 light-years away, it would be one of the brighter stars in the sky if it weren’t surrounded by obscuring dust.
Image Credit: NASA