Heat-Sensitive Mug Shows the Mysterious V838 Monocerotis

Rebecca OConnell


There are a lot of heat-sensitive mugs that change designs when you add hot liquid, but a new design from ThinkGeek takes the idea to the Final Frontier, ingeniously using the technology to portray a space oddity that's mystifying astronomers. About 20,000 light years away is a red supergiant star known as V838 Monocerotis. In 2002, the star had a "stellar outburst" (it started to glow and became the brightest in the Milky Way), then dimmed. This would normally signal a nova, in which stars burn out brilliantly and then die, but then things got strange: The star brightened again. Scientists still don't quite know why.

This phenomenon is strange, but ThinkGeek is capitalizing on it with a mug that mirrors V838 Monocerotis's blinking glow. The container starts with a depiction of the red star at the outer edge of the Milky Way, and when you add hot liquid, changes to show the star mid-outburst as a supergiant. The 20-ounce mug isn't microwave or dishwasher safe as it will ruin the heat-sensitive coating, but hey, the cosmos is a fragile place. 

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