NASA Spots Runaway Star
Supernova sent Zeta Ophiuchi bolting through space
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2011 12:32 PM CST
The blue star near the center of this image provided by NASA is Zeta Ophiuchi, a massive, hot, bright blue star plowing its way through a large cloud of interstellar dust and gas.   (AP Photo/NASA)

(Newser) – NASA's latest find is a runaway star with about 20 times the mass of our sun, slamming through space at an eye-popping 54,000 miles per hour, reports NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) caught Zeta Ophiuchi in a spectacular infrared image that shows a massive star blanketed by an enormous cloud of dust, racing at such velocity that it creates a shockwave in front of it. But it's the infrared that makes the image spectacular, notes In the visible light spectrum, Zeta Ophiuchi looks like a dim red star.

Scientists think the 4-million-year-old star once revolved around another star, and like many a toxic relationship, one imploded, sending the other bolting across time and space. And relatively speaking, time is short for Zeta Ophiuchi: While our sun has an estimated 10 billion years left, the runaway star will explode in another 4 million or so.