Hungry? Look up at the night sky, and you might spot a cosmic hamburger. Named after its discoverer, Arturo Gomez, this fascinating object, located 6,500 light-years away, resembles a hamburger with dark fillings between two brightly lit buns.

Discovered at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in 1985, the object is officially known as Gomez’s Hamburger (IRAS 18059–3211). It has since captured the attention of astronomers worldwide.

What Makes Gomez’s Hamburger Special?

Gomez’s Hamburger is unique due to its striking appearance and intriguing characteristics. The dark band of light seen from Earth is the shadow of a thick disk surrounding the central star, viewed edge-on. This star, with a surface temperature of 10,000°C, is hidden within the dark disk, while light perpendicular to the disk illuminates the dust above and below it.

NASA explains that the reason for the thick, dusty disk around the star remains uncertain. One possibility is that the central object might be a pair of stars.

The Future of Gomez’s Hamburger

Scientists believe that Gomez’s Hamburger is a proto-planetary nebula, a rare and brief phase in stellar evolution. In about a thousand years, as the star heats up, the surrounding dust will evaporate, transforming the object into a spectacularly glowing planetary nebula.

As the gas around the star heats up, it will emit a bright glow, making Gomez’s Hamburger a stunning celestial sight in the night sky. This transformation will mark the end of its proto-planetary nebula phase and the beginning of its new life as a fully developed planetary nebula.

Why This Matters

Understanding objects like Gomez’s Hamburger helps astronomers learn more about the life cycles of stars and the evolution of nebulae. The unique features and future transformation of Gomez’s Hamburger provide valuable insights into these processes.

So, the next time you gaze at the night sky, remember that among the stars, there’s a cosmic hamburger undergoing a fascinating transformation, offering a glimpse into the complex and dynamic universe we live in.

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