What’s that? The multi-headed serpent killed by Heracles?
Nope. It’s a red giant star, located 320 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Hydra, that was recently observed in unprecedented detail by researchers at the ALMA Observatory in Chile.
What’s special about it?
When it started life, W Hydrae had a very similar mass to the Sun, making it an ideal subject to study to learn more about the ultimate fate of our Solar System’s own star.
Tell me more!
Stars like the Sun age over many billions of years. As they reach old age they swell up, becoming larger and cooler as they grow, and losing mass thanks to the action of solar winds. During this stage, they release elements for the formation of new stars and even life, such as carbon and nitrogen, into space.
Currently, W Hydrae is around twice the size of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
So what’s next?
The team plan to take further, more accurate, images in order to study how the processes change as the star ages.