This is an emission nebula located in the constellation Canis Major, some 15,000 light-years away from our planet. The nebula itself is an estimated 30 light-years in diameter. For comparison, the entire Milky Way is about 100,000 light-years in diameter.
Inside this cosmic structure, astronomers have identified a number of bubbles and arcs, structures whose existence they could not explain. In a new study, they finally made some headway in this regard.
The experts say that the main culprit is a massive Wolf-Rayet star, that is located in the center of one of the bubbles, as evidenced in the attached image. This category of stars contains celestial fireballs that are both massive and highly luminous.
Wolf–Rayet stars (generally called WR stars) are objects that are relatively old and also very heavy. They tend to be 20 times the mass of our Sun, or more, and their main characteristic is that they are losing mass at very high rates.
The main mechanism through which this happens is via high-speed solar winds, which take matter out of the star at speeds reaching 2,000 kilometers per second. Average surface temperatures on WR stars are very high, at between 25,000 and 50,000 degrees Kelvin.
For comparison, the Sun is only about 5,800 degrees Kelvin on its surface. Granted, the corona is significantly hotter, reaching temperatures of millions of degrees, Daily Galaxy reports.
In the new scientific study, it was revealed that the massive amounts of matter that WR stars lose via solar winds are what cause the bubbles in Thor's Helmet and other similar nebulae.
However, the data also indicates that other mechanisms are at work inside NGC 2359 that are not visible in other similar locations. According to scientists, the observed differences could be accounted for if we consider the WR star in the nebula is moving at supersonic speeds.
At this point, this is only a supposition. Researchers plan to use advanced space telescopes to get a better view of the entire scene, and perhaps determine whether the star is moving, or if it's staying put.