Changing Planet

Stunning Hubble Portrait of Stellar Light Echo

This festive NASA Hubble Space Telescope image resembles a holiday wreath made of sparkling lights. The bright southern hemisphere star RS Puppis, at the center of the image, is swaddled in a gossamer cocoon of reflective dust illuminated by the glittering star. The super star is ten times more massive than our Sun and 200 times larger. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-Hubble/Europe Collaboration

The Hubble Space Telescope sends along the spirit of the season, spying a cosmic holiday wreath.

Just like your favorite seasonal ornament, the giant cloud of gas and dust lights up from within. Only in this case, the holiday glow comes from a massive variable star.

Located some 6,500 light years away from Earth, the super-giant star at the center of the image, RS Puppis, is in its death throes. The star weighs in with 10 times more mass than our sun, and is a whopping 200 times larger.

Because RS Puppis rhythmically pulses in brightness and energy—up to 15,000 times greater than our sun at its six week peak—it bathes the surrounding cocoon of reflective dust in waves of light rippling clear across the entire nebula. The phenomenon is known as a “light echo”.

“Even though light travels through space fast enough to span the gap between Earth and the Moon in a little over a second, the nebula is so large that reflected light can actually be photographed traversing the nebula,” said a statement on NASA’s website.

Keeping careful tabs on how the star’s light varies over time and how it drives light pulses across the entire dusty nebula, astronomers precisely measured the distance to RS Puppis—down to only an incredible 1% margin of error. The star will serve as an improved cosmic “yardstick”, according to the space agency, allowing observers to better gauge the distance to other celestial objects.


Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.


Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.
  • Nura haruna


  • Bergas Adiasa

    Beautiful and awesome

  • mita chatterjee

    MERRY CHRISTMAS keep up the good work of informing us about the space and exploring the unknown.

  • Smith Murray bin Alloh

    Its amazing pic recorded by NASA’s above.
    I’ve been dreaming during my slept hours in my Village was about that image but its really as reality as the book said.

    We make it already for our generation to have all scales by God was delivering to us, for realize and aware about his existence in and between our lifes.

    God bless, incredible team work.
    How much should I pay your work?


  • Farid Azam

    One of these type of solar systems may become our future home in 1000 years from now.

  • Joseph Lavallee

    Not comment —How many earth years has actually passed since this actually happened ??

  • john


  • Steve

    @ Joseph Lavallee – A light year is literally how far light travels in 1 of our years, so the view we see today in this case happened 6500 years ago.

  • Eric

    @Smith Murray bin Alloh
    If you closely read the article it’s about “light echo” can you explain to as why you have said, “but its really as reality as the book said.” What book? Then you go on to talk about “GOD and his existence” Where in this article did it bring you to god..? Now after that being said why would your whole paragraph about “GOD” end with “How much should I pay your work?”

  • Michael Hubertz

    The article here would have made sense if you had provided a link to the ESA video that shows the effect of stellar light echo ->

  • Sarah Arnold

    OMG!this is so…….PRETTY.

  • Sarah Arnold

    Well,Joseph ever since Adam and Eve were alive.also when God created earth.So what I am trying to say is that you need to look in the Bible.

    God created earth.

  • Sarah Arnold

    Hey!Eric he is talking about our savior and Lord Jesus.So that makes you a atheist.

  • Sarah Arnold

    Ummmm…..Farid,I don’t think so.

  • Sarah Arnold

    It looks like heavens gates.

  • Dave

    Hey, Sarah Arnold, open your eyes and stop annoying poeple about your believe. This is sience, real thing that happening. Not stupiditys wrothe in a book 2000’s years ago!!

  • Sarah Arnold

    Dave,maybe you should open your eyes!!!God created this not science.And your the stupid one.

  • Sarah Arnold

    The Bible isn’t stupid,it teaches us,Dave!!!

  • Sarah Arnold

    I am so sorry I called you stupid,maybe you should pray and open your heart to God.Because you could go to hell.I just want people to know about God and how amazing he is,we aren’t perfect like him,unless we go to God for help and change our ways of sin.But the fool has said in his heart,there is no God,that’s a verse from the Bible.

  • Sarah Arnold

    Everybody, on this blog,I hope you can forgive me.Dave,especially you.

  • Fabrice

    Magnifique !

  • Skeptical Believer

    With all due respect to everyone, let everyone be happy with their beliefs and dont shove yours down their throat. We can all be happy with what we believe in. But yeah the earth was definitely not created 6000 years ago.

  • Sarah Arnold

    Skeptical believer,I like your guts.And yeah,Dave,don’t bother me about my belief.

  • Molly Gardener

    Dave,why don’t you leave Sarah Arnold alone.And let her talk about whatever she wants to!!!

  • Molly Gardener

    And people stop looking for a fight,and be normal. Or just be quiet about it.

  • Elly

    This isn’t Facebook,people!you can really get rough on there.

  • Caleb Magoon

    Sarah Arnold, i congratulate u for ur boldness and courage to speak out about God, in such a place where God is frowned upon. I also am a 15 year old Christian, who believes that an intelligent creator made this, how does evolution explain a sight as beutiful as this?? Good job Sarah Arnold for putting God out there!!

  • Severine

    This pictures inspires to go away from street lights and watch the wonderful clrar night sky with thousands of stars.

  • Lew Price

    Sarah Arnold and anyone else who is going to talk about how evolution is wrong: Stop trying to use the bible to discount science. Science these days is fact so if you want to think about it in a biblical way try this. Science is God’s mechanism so stop spouting your ignorant bullcrap and think for yourselves for once instead of relying on some text that has been heavily edited by man, mistranslated by man, and was most likely written by man.

  • Elly

    That’s ENOUGH talk about religion,AND I MEAN IT!!!!

  • Elly

    Lets just have a nice conversation and don’t worry about what Sarah Arnold is saying.IS THAT OK???And lets not hunt her down,I don’t think that’s her real name.

  • Moriah

    Let’s STOP talking about religion,this blog wasn’t meant for religion.

  • #prettygirl101

    Remember,this blog is about making opinions. Not by making someone feel uncomfortable about what they believe in.Am I right Andrew???

  • Anacaren

    That’s so totally right!!Moriah and Elly,you guys are life savers!

  • Jack

    Yepppp!!they are.

  • Mr.mile parkerly

    We should always respect the privacy of others.If you don’t believe me,go to the Community rules.

  • Southern Islands

    Aloha!!From Hawaii.

  • 4runner

    What’s your FAVORITE TV show???

  • Whats up!?!?!

    What’s your FAVORITE TV show???Leave comment:)

  • Random question

    What’s your MOST FAVORITE types of animals/insects???Leave comment:)

  • Whats up!?!?!

    Hey!!Nobody copies,Whats up!?!?!

  • Whats up!?!?!

    Hey,Man!?!?Nobody copies the,Whats up!?!?!question idea.

  • Whats up!?!?!

    Hey,Man!?!?That’s my phrase!!But,you can keep it.

  • Whats up!?!?!

    Yeah,just keep that phrase its a gift from me.Even though I have no idea who you are.

  • My Favorite….

    Dude,chilax it was just a question. Speaking of question, My favorite TV show is Chopped. And, my favorite insect is a beetle.

  • Random question

    Well,I guess we are all copying each other without knowing it.Sorry,4runner and Whats up!?!?!

  • Seal sale

    You guys are crazy!!In a good way.

  • Code27

    Very cool,Andrew.Glad you put this on here!

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