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Scientists discovered an energetic “cosmic serpent” in our galaxy

It is believed to be the only such star system of its kind in our galaxy and it’s destined for destruction.


In ancient-Egyptian mythology, Apep was the serpent god of darkness, destruction, and chaos. In contemporary astronomy, Apep is the nickname for a massive, just-discovered star system surrounded by serpentine dust swirls and officially known as 2XMM J160050.7-514245.

It is believed to be the only such star system of its kind in our galaxy and it’s destined for destruction. “We never expected to find such a system in our own backyard,” said Joseph Callingham of the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy in statement. Callingham is the author of the study unveiling this discovery, published today (Nov. 19) in Nature Astronomy.


Like its namesake mythological god of yore, who was blamed for solar eclipses and said to battle the sun god Ra every night, the cosmic serpent Apep is a sign of a very powerful force. Scientists believe that the star system is made up of a binary star system and a single star, which are rotating around each other, held together by gravity. The rotating stars in this system are called “Wolf-Rayet” stars. They are dying, very slowly, and will likely end their lives with a gamma-ray burst, one of the most energetic explosive forces in the universe: long-duration gamma-ray bursts.

Further, scientists believe Apep is could cause a “long-duration” gamma-ray burst, which is when the energetic events last longer than a few seconds. These are some of the most powerful stellar events in the known universe.





In cosmic terms, Wolf-Rayet stars are short-lived. On a human scale, they’re practically eternal, lasting hundreds of thousands of years before ending in a dramatic and powerful explosion.

Astronomers say that this unique star system seems to be rotating so fast it’s practically ripping itself apart. As such, Apep’s final explosion is expected to be extremely powerful. But unlike the evil mythological Egyptian god, which could never be vanquished, not even by its arch enemy Ra, this cosmic serpent is destined to be defeated someday. At that point it will go out with a bang, literally, unlike any other

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