Zeta Ophiuchi has had an interesting life. It began as a typical large star about twenty times more massive than the sun.
It spent its days happily orbiting a large companion star until its companion exploded as a supernova about a million years ago.
The explosion ejected Zeta Ophiuchi, so now it is speeding away through interstellar space.
The supernova also expelled the outer layers of the companion star, so rather than empty space, our plucky star is speeding through the remnant gas as well.
Zeta Ophiuchi is most famous for beautiful images such as the one above. By plowing through interstellar gas, the star has created heated shock waves that glow in everything from infrared to X-rays.
The physics of these shock waves is complex. It is governed by a set of mathematical equations known as magnetohydrodynamics, which describes the behavior of fluid gases and their magnetic fields.
Modeling these equations is bad enough, but when you have turbulent motion such as shock waves, things get even worse.
That's why Zeta Ophiuchi is so important. Since we have such a great view of its shock wave, we can compare our observations with computer simulations.
In this latest study, the team created computer models simulating the shock wave near Zeta Ophiuchi. They then compared these models to observations in infrared, visible, and X-rays.
Their goal is to determine which simulations are the most accurate so that the models can be further refined. Of their three models, two of them predicted the brightest region of X-ray emissions.
But all three models also predicted that X-ray emissions should be fainter than we observe, so none of the models are fully accurate.