martes, 11 de marzo de 2008

Real Death Star Could Strike Earth


A sequence of 11 frames, stacked here and colorized, show the Pinwheel system created by the binary star system known as Wolf-Rayet 104 seen by the Keck telescope in near-infrared. Credit: Peter Tuthill, University of Sydney

"A beautiful pinwheel in space might one day blast Earth with death rays, scientists now report.

Unlike the moon-sized Death Star from Star Wars, which has to get close to a planet to blast it, this blazing spiral has the potential to burn worlds from thousands of light-years away.

"I used to appreciate this spiral just for its beautiful form, but now I can't help a twinge of feeling that it is uncannily like looking down a rifle barrel," said researcher Peter Tuthill, an astronomer at the University of Sydney.

The fiery pinwheel in space in question has at its heart a pair of hot, luminous stars locked in orbit with each other. As they circle one another, plumes of streaming gas driven from the surfaces of the stars collide in the intervening space, eventually becoming entangled and twisted into a whirling spiral by the orbits of the stars."