• Space Oddities: Stars That Are Stranger Than Fiction

    From afar, shimmering stars set in the night sky seem peaceful and tranquil. However, telescopic images can paint a different picture, showing us star “oddities.” For instance, older stars can become unstable and even explode. Many stars have doubles; there’s at least one instance of a person describing a “star within a star.”

    Some stars are outright dangerous, too. In 2004, a star exploding over 50,000 light-years away affected Earth’s atmosphere. The star was appropriately named ASASSN-15LH. Another potentially hazardous star, WR 104, is pointed at us, but closer than ASASSN-15LH. And WR 104 could send a burst of gamma rays directly towards us.

    Planetarium Director Pat Hanrahan will present “Space Oddities: Stars That Are Stranger Than Fiction” on Tuesday, Nov. 6, and Friday, Nov. 9, with shows at 6 and 7:15 p.m. on both days. Hanrahan will also identify stars in the current night sky and show observers where to find some of these curious stars and other attractions.

    Visitors are encouraged to ask questions during each 45-minute live program. Children are welcome to attend. The MHCC Planetarium is wheelchair accessible. Admission for the general public is $5, and $2 for children (17 and younger) and for MHCC students (identification required). Seating is limited and available on a first come, first served basis.

    New stars often form in dust clouds that take on many shapes. A new star can be seen forming in the “eye” of this strange-looking object (top). The infrared image (bottom) allows us to see through the dust to see a whirlpool forming a new star, with jets shooting off in both directions. These jets have been called “The Axis of Evil” by a number of astronomers.