What happens when a star is thrown out of its birthplace? Well, to find out we just have to look at Zeta Ophiuchi. Over one million years ago, a powerful stellar explosion from its companion kicked Zeta Ophiuchi out, sending it into interstellar space at 45 kilometers per second (about 100,000 miles per hour).
The effects of this fast motion are very visible to us, despite being 440 light-years away. The stellar wind released by the star slammed into the interstellar gas, creating some incredible features, some of them never seen before for this type of runaway star.
Previous observations using the now defunct infrared telescope Spitzer saw the incredible shock waves (in red and green) form from the interactions with the gas the star is moving through. But closer to the star, is a bubble of x-rays (in blue), formed as the shock waves have heated this gas to tens of millions of degrees.
And that unique feature is a problem. Simulations, reported in a preprint paper accepted in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, expect the x-rays to be weaker and brighter near the shock wave and not the star. Clearly, more complexity needs to be added to the simulations. The team behind the work is planning to do just that and find a way to explain the peculiar emission from this runaway star.