News Release Archive:

News Release 55 of 168

October 26, 2006 12:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2006-50

Hubble's Latest Views of Light Echo from Star V838 Monocerotis


Image: Hubble's Latest Views of Light Echo from Star V838 Monocerotis

Hubble's Latest Views of Light Echo from Star V838 MonocerotisSTScI-PRC2006-50

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These are the most recent NASA Hubble Space Telescope views of an unusual phenomenon in space called a light echo. Light from a star that erupted nearly five years ago continues propagating outward through a cloud of dust surrounding the star. The light reflects or "echoes" off the dust and then travels to Earth.

Because of the extra distance the scattered light travels, it reaches the Earth long after the light from the stellar outburst itself. Therefore, a light echo is an analog of a sound echo produced, for example, when sound from an Alpine yodeler echoes off of the surrounding mountainsides.

The echo comes from the unusual variable star V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon), located 20,000 light-years away on the periphery of our Galaxy. In early 2002, V838 Mon increased in brightness temporarily to become 600,000 times brighter than our Sun. The reason for the eruption is still unclear.

Hubble has been observing the V838 Mon light echo since 2002. Each new observation of the light echo reveals a new and unique "thin-section" through the interstellar dust around the star. The new images of the light echo were taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in November 2005 (left) and September 2006 (right). Particularly noticeable in the images are numerous whorls and eddies in the interstellar dust, which are possibly produced by effects of magnetic fields.

For more information, contact:

Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md., (phone) 410-338-4514; (e-mail) .

Howard Bond
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md., (phone) 410-338-4718; (e-mail) .

Object Name: V838 Monocerotis

Image Type: Astronomical/Annotated

Credit: NASA, ESA, and H. Bond (STScI)


The above montage includes these images:

V838 Monocerotis - November 2005 Image Type: Astronomical V838 Monocerotis - November 2005 V838 Monocerotis - September 2006 Image Type: Astronomical V838 Monocerotis - September 2006

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