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HubbleSite Hubble Maps 3-D Structure of Ejected Material Around Erupting Star

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Space Telescope Science



After 45 years of peaceful bliss, the nova T Pyxidis erupted again in 2011. Astronomers took advantage of a flash of light accompanying the blast to map the ejecta from previous outbursts surrounding the double-star system. The team used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to trace the light as it sequentially illuminated different parts of the disk, a phenomenon called a light echo. Contrary to some predictions, the astronomers were somewhat surprised to find that the ejecta stayed in the vicinity of the star and formed a disk of debris. The discovery suggests that material continues expanding outward along the system's orbital plane, but it does not escape the system.

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