Nasa has photographed a beautiful and massive alien star which is moving so quickly it is able to break the sound barrier in the darkness of space.

The giant star Zeta Ophiuchi is located about 370 light years from Earth and dwarfs our own star. Nasa said it is six times hotter, eight times as wide, 20 times heavier and 80,000 times as bright.

It would be one of the brightest stars in the sky were it not for a thick cloud of dust in the foreground.

Nasa said the star is moving at 54,000 miles per hour, "fast enough to break the sound barrier in the surrounding interstellar material". As a result it has a "spectacular" bow shock ahead of its direction of travel, like a ship moving through water. That wave of solar particles is moving more than half a light-year away from the star, which is almost 800 times the distance from the sun to Pluto.

The image was made with infrared light, as most of it cannot be seen in visible light from Earth.

(Hat-tip to Gizmodo for highlighting this picture.)