Remnants of an Unknown Outburst

Sarah Marie
3 min readJun 27, 2022


Monday Astronomy Picture Ponderings (MAPPs) 6/27/2022

A red star with a red halo sits near the center of a stellar landscape. It creates a point on an arrow-like grouping of blue-white stars from the left corner. Around the red star is an incomplete “orb” of tan dust and stellar material, wisps circling around the red star with gaps particularly in the bottom and in the center. Other stars like in the background.
Light Echoes from V838 Mon from NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 6/26/2022. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, H. E. Bond (STScI)

Welcome back to the Monday Astronomy Picture Ponderings (MAPPs) series where every Monday I normally pick one of NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) entries from the past seven days to focus on in some way.

What happened to you, V838? You lie in the unicorn constellation, Monoceros, near Canis Major. You are currently hidden from view until the fall, but you stand as an epitome of the mysteries of the universe.

We still don’t know what caused your outburst in 2002, making you one of the brightest stars in our galaxy. Your outer surface suddenly expanded and then just as suddenly, shrank and faded.

While you are reminiscent of (super)novas around the universe that expel matter into space from a massive explosion, the death of a star, what we see is actually an expanding light echo from the original outburst.

As the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day page explains, “light from the flash is reflected by successively more distant surfaces in the complex array of ambient interstellar dust that already surrounded the star.”

We don’t know what caused you or countless other observations of the universe, but we learn a little more every day about the mind-boggling universe in which we find ourselves.

You all inspire us, fueling our passion to learn, to chip away at the ignorance inherent to science that we are constantly and consistently attempting to remedy. The pursuit of knowledge.

Every little crumb that we learn helps us, though we may not be able to see how yet.

Below is an animation of 11 images of V838 Mon and its light echo.

V838 Mon 1989–2006 By Lasunncty — Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Notes about my Monday Astronomy Picture Ponderings (MAPPs) series: every Monday I pick one of NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) entries from the past seven days to focus on in some way. The beautiful thing about astronomy is that the possibilities are endless.

Many of the photos used in NASA’s APOD are copyrighted as they are taken by professional astrophotographers who deserve credit and protection of their work. When this is the case, I post a copyright-free version of the subject of the picture and link to the APOD post within the article.

I highly recommend checking out the other six photos for the week, going back even further, or keeping up with them yourself moving forward. It is an amazing resource that anyone can access.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of the Monday Astronomical Picture Ponderings (MAPPs). Consider following me to keep up with this series and my other work. If you are not already a Medium member and enjoyed this, consider using my affiliate links to join as a member or subscribe for email updates when I publish. Using these links support my work by having a portion of your fee go directly to me while also providing access to and supporting thousands of other writers on this platform.



Sarah Marie

Author & Freelance Writer | Top Writer in Space | A little bit of everything: Science, books, personal development, fiction, poetry, hobbies, and art