A team of astronomers have found the ‘missing link’ of stellar death, revealing what our Sun might look like at the end of its life.
The group of Australian and US astronomers, led by Associate Professor Miroslav Filipovic of the University of Western Sydney, call the new class of object ‘super planetary nebulae’.
They report on their finding in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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Stars come in different many different sizes and the bigger the star is, the faster it will burn its fuel.
Our sun is an average star and will take about 10 billion years to burn its fuel. The brightest star in our night sky, Sirius, is 21 times the size of our sun and may only last a billion years. Some stars will burn so brightly, they last less than 10 million years.
We can tell how old a star is by looking at its colour – what scientists call its spectra. A spectra is like a chemical fingerprint, showing what is inside the star. Young stars have simple chemical elements, such as hydrogen and helium. As the star gets older, heavier elements like carbon and oxygen appear.
The spectra of our sun tells astronomers that it is 5 billion years old, or about half way through its life.