Mira (MY-rah) is a star that scientists have studied for 400 years. But NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer telescope captured a very surprising image of Mira. It showed for the first time that Mira has a long tail of dust and gas—13 light-years long! That is 20,000 times longer than the average distance from the Sun to Pluto!
A star’s life has a beginning, middle, and end, just like ours. Only a star’s life is much, much longer. Mira is a red giant star near the end of its life. It is blowing off much of its mass in the form of gas and dust. It has already flung out enough material to construct at least 3,000 Earth-sized planets!
Mira is moving at 291,000 miles per hour! This is much faster than the other stars in our part of the Milky Way galaxy. This speed and the huge amount of material coming off Mira have created its contrail-like tail.