New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Astronomers believe they have solved a 16-year-old mystery of a Blue Ring Nebula that surrounds a star located about 6000 light years from Earth. By applying cutting-edge theoretical models to the slew of data collected from multiple Earth and space-bound telescope over 16 years, astronomers found that the Nebula is likely composed of debris left behind when two stars collided and merged into a single star. 

The study, published in journal Nature, holds significance because the structure will now help astronomers develop an understanding of merged star system. While such systems are common in the universe, they cannot be studied immediately after they are formed because the debris from the stellar merger obscures the resultant star in the initial stage, NASA said in a statement. 

The blue ring Nebula was first spotted by NASA's space-based Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) in 2004. The large, faint, blue-coloured blob of gas surrounding a living star perplexed astronomers for years. 

"For quite a long time we though that maybe there was a planet several times the mass of Jupiter being torn apart by the star, and that was throwing all that gas out of the system," said astrophysicist Mark Seibert.

An explanation for what had created the nebula eluded scientists for more than a decade after the structure's discovery. Using cutting-edge theoretical models, the astronomers concluded that the nebula was the product of a recent stellar merger between a star similar to our Sun and another star about one-tenth its size. 

"We see plenty of two-star systems that might merge some day, and we think we've identified stars that merge maybe millions of years ago. But we have almost no data on what happens between," said Brian Metzger of Columbia University. "We think there are probably plenty of young remnants of stellar mergers in our galaxy, and the Blue Ring Nebula might show us what they look like so we can identify more of them." 

Posted By: Lakshay Raja