The star, R Sculptoris, is called an asymptotic giant branch star, a type that starts out anywhere from about the size of the sun to 8 times the size of the sun. (The sun will also become an AGB star when it grows old.) Red giants like this spew huge amounts of dust and gas as they die, providing the raw materials for new stars, planets and us. Shells of this material sometimes encircle the stars, but this is the first time scientists have seen a shell and a spiral flowing out of the star. The spiral probably formed under the influence of gravity from a nearby companion, which is unusual, astronomers said.