AE Aurigae (center right) amid the Flaming Star Nebula, which it illuminates. Image by the KPNO 0.9-m telescope. Credit: T. A. Rector & B. A. Wolpa, NOAO, AURA, NSF.
AE Aurigae is an O-type star in the constellation Aurgia which is also one of the best known runaway stars. It is one of three stars, the others being Mu Columbae and 53 Arietis, which are moving rapidly on divergent paths from a common point in space near where the Trapezium in Orion presently lies. Approximately 2.7 million years ago an event occurred that violently ejected these three stars: it may have been a supernova explosion or, alternately, a close encounter between two massive binary star systems.
Although intrinsically very luminous, AE Aurigae lies close to the limit of naked-eye visibility in our skies. Its apparent faintness is due to a combination of its great distance and the fact that a significant fraction of its light is absorbed by interstellar dust. As its name implies, it is also a variable star.
AE Aurigae is presently passing through an unrelated interstellar cloud of gas and dust that it is illuminating and giving rise to the so-called Flaming Star Nebula.
|visual magnitude||5.78–6.08 (var.)|
|surface temperature||36,500 K|
|distance||1,460 ± 480 light-years|
|position||RA 05h 16m 18.2s,
Dec +34° 18' 43"
|HR 1712, HD 34078,
BD+34°980, HIP 24575,
SAO 57816, GC 6429,