Tonight's Sky
Sun
Sun
Moon
Moon
Mercury
Mercury
Venus
Venus
Mars
Mars
Jupiter
Jupiter
Saturn
Saturn

Tonight's Sky — Change location

OR

Searching...

Tonight's Sky — Select location

Tonight's Sky — Enter coordinates

° '
° '

Weird Object: Carbon Spiral AFGL 3068

No. 6: Sooty Binary Stars Belch Like Clockwork

RELATED TOPICS: BINARY STARS
wheelinsky2
WHEEL IN THE SKY KEEPS ON TURNING. Eerie perfectly spaced spirals of carbon dust emanate from AFGL 3068, an unseen double star. The bright star on the right appears to illuminate it, but the real light source is the glow of the Milky Way Galaxy itself. 
ESA/NASA & R. Sahai

One of a kind. That’s the star AFGL 3068, whose true nature was not uncovered until 2006. Its gorgeous if bizarre appearance certainly suggests great mystery. Ironically, however, this unique entity actually solves one of astronomy’s outstanding puzzles. 

AFGL 3068 was long known as a bright infrared spot in the constellation Pegasus, but optical telescopes showed nothing there. It’s not that it was too small: The spirals’ dimensions match the angular size of Mars as seen from Earth. Plenty large enough. The problem was the extreme faintness. Only when astronomers successfully pleaded for a long 33-minute exposure using the Hubble Space Telescope’s ultra-sensitive Advanced Camera for Surveys did this geometric oddity materialize out of the blackness. 

Astronomy magazine subscribers can read the full article for free. Just make sure you're registered with the website. 

Already a subscriber? Register now!

Registration is FREE and takes only a few seconds to complete. If you are already registered on Astronomy.com, please log in below.
ADVERTISEMENT

FREE EMAIL NEWSLETTER

Receive news, sky-event information, observing tips, and more from Astronomy's weekly email newsletter. View our Privacy Policy.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
asy_darkmatter_300x250

Click here to download a FREE Women in Astronomy PDF curated by Astronomy magazine.

Find us on Facebook