<< Back to
Hubble Gallery
Hubble Watches Super Star Create Holiday Light Show
Hubble Watches Super Star Create Holiday Light Show

This festive Hubble Space Telescope image resembles a holiday wreath made of sparkling lights. The bright southern hemisphere star RS Puppis is at the center of the image and is swaddled in a gossamer cocoon of reflective dust illuminated by the glittering star.

The superstar is ten times more massive than our Sun and 200 times larger. If viewed from any accompanying planets it would appear 15,000 times brighter than our Sun.

RS Puppis rhythmically brightens and dims over a six-week cycle. It is one of the most luminous in the class of so-called Cepheid variable stars.

The surrounding nebula flickers in brightness as pulses of light from the Cepheid propagate outwards. Hubble took a series of photos of light flashes rippling across the nebula in a phenomenon known as a light echo. Even though light travels through space fast enough to span the gap between the Earth and the Moon in a little over a second, the nebula is so large that light can actually be photographed traversing the nebula.

By observing the fluctuation in RS Puppis itself as well as recording the faint reflections of light pulses moving across the nebula, astronomers are able to measure these "light echoes" and pin down a very accurate distance. The distance to RS Puppis has been narrowed down to 6,500 light-years.

Image downloads (JPG):
For screen:
Small: Medium: Large:
49.6KB 176.5KB 1.47MB
For print: HIGH-RESOLUTION 17.21MB
WARNING: For download
only. This file is too big to
be viewed in most browsers.
Video icon
Video downloads:
VIDEO DOWNLOAD FORMATS
Largest 1280 x 720 Large 640 x 360 Small 320 x 180
Windows Media 9.87MB 4.93MB 2.74MB
Quicktime 8.94MB 4.71MB 1.81MB

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-Hubble/Europe Collaboration

Acknowledgment: H. Bond (STScI and Pennsylvania State University)