The Great Balls of Fire (GBF) are mysterious, super-hot blobs of gas which were detected by the Hubble Space Telescope over the weekend. Each as massive as planet Mars and zooming so fast through space that they would travel from earth to the moon in 30 minutes, the GBF have continued once every 8.5 years for at least the past 400 years.
The fireballs present a puzzle to astronomers. The gas balls were observed near a red giant called V Hydrae, about 1,200 light years away from earth. Red giants are stars that are nearing the end of their fuel supplies and have begun to puff up and expand. While the fireballs could not have been ejected by the star, it is felt that an unseen companion star in an elliptical orbit around the red giant could be responsible.
The elongated orbit carries the companion every 8.5 years to within the puffed-up atmosphere of V Hydrae, where it gobbles up material from the bloated star. This material then settles into a disk around the companion, and serves as the launching pad for blobs of plasma, which travel at roughly a half-million miles per hour.
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