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V838 in Monoceros - a Special Variable Star:

V838 is a red supergiant variable star in the constellation Monoceros. This star "pulsed" away its outer layers in what can be described as a single flash - a sudden outburst - that occurred in January 2002. The emission of the surrounding cloud comes from the red supergiant star at the heart of this phenomenon.

While this can resemble a supernova remnant or planetary nebula, it is actually neither one. This object does not represent and end stage of stellar evolution, but just one step toward.

Here is a progression of images demonstrating the expanding shell of dust and gas:

April 30, 2002

May 20, 2002

September 2, 2002

October 28, 2002

December 17, 2002

March 4, 2004

Here is an overview:

The interesting shape is a matter of cloud formation and light reflection in our line of sight:

Because the central star is a supergiant, just how big is this object in relation to us? Take a look:

This is just the star and not the surrounding dust and gas!

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