'Fried Egg Nebula' served up
September 28th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

'Fried Egg Nebula' served up

It's called IRAS 17163-3907, but "Fried Egg Nebula" rolls off the tongue better, like a buttery breakfast.

This rare celestial object, about 13,000 light years from our planet, is has a diameter about a thousand times bigger than the Sun, and it appears to shine about 500,000 times more brightly. Its mass is about 20 times that of the Sun. This image comes from the European Southern Observatory'a Very Large Telescope.

It's so big that you'd find Earth deep within the Fried Egg Nebula if the star were in the center of our solar system.

The Fried Egg Nebula is a yellow hypergiant. This phase in a star's life is a possibility after a star has been a red supergiant, which happens when stars with 10 or more times the mass of the sun burn all their hydrogen. When a red supergiant has burned all of its helium, it may become a yellow hypergiant for a few million years. Then, the star may evolve into a rare kind of bright star called a luminous blue variable, or explode as a supernova.

In fact, researchers believe the Fried Egg Nebula will be one of the next supernova explosions in the Milky Way.

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Filed under: In Space
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Amber

    this is so cool! i wonder if we'll see anything at all like a semi-brighter star or something... space is an amazing thing!! 🙂

    October 18, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  2. cherry

    Ok will this effect Earth in any way if it becomes a supernova also how long after the event would it take to reach our planet?

    September 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • fimeilleur

      Well 13,000 light years away... I'll let you think a bit.... ok... what's the answer to your question?

      September 28, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
      • Bonzi

        Yeah, but since it 13,000 light years away, any information we have on it is at least 13,000 years old. Something could have happened 12,999 years ago and we'll find out about it next year.

        September 28, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
      • fimeilleur

        Yup... so it doesn't really matter, does it?

        September 29, 2011 at 12:42 am |
  3. Sobek

    I find myself amused at the comment:

    "In fact, researchers believe the Fried Egg Nebula will be one of the next supernova explosions in the Milky Way."

    Trying to make it sound like it could be soon. It could still be several hundred, or even thousands, of years before that happens.

    September 28, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • Bonzi

      Millions, more likely.

      September 28, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  4. Bonzi

    Wait, wait, wait... The European Southern Observatory calls their telescope the "Very Large Telescope?" Apparently science and creativity don't always go hand in hand.

    September 28, 2011 at 7:42 am |
    • Loulou14


      As a side note.. Apparently I post this sort of comment quite often. My cellphone now autocorrects a mistype of facepalm with the little stars on the outer edges. XD

      September 28, 2011 at 11:23 am |


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