The Brightest And Most Massive Star

The Brightest And Most Massive Star

R136a1 star.jpg

So far we have looked at the largest star and the largest galaxy. This time it is the most luminous star discovered. In the centre of the picture above is R136a1. With a luminosity 8.7 million times that of our own Sun this is the most luminous star discovered to date. It is also the most massive (not the biggest) at 265 solar masses. At birth the star was thought to have been even more massive at around 320 solar masses. Stars this massive should not exist.

Image credit: ESO

How is this star so massive?

Current theories on star formation put a limit on how massive a star can get. This is 150 solar masses. It is thought that R136a1 must be the amalgamation of many stars to have achieved this colossal mass. Interestingly, stars that have a mass of between 8-150 solar masses are expected to go supernova at the end of their life. A star of this mass would go hypernova. An explosion with the power of 100 supernovae.

Where is R136a1 in the Night Sky?

This massive star can be found in the tarantula nebula within the Large Magellanic Cloud. It has a magnitude of 12.77 which will make it tough to spot in a telescope. The tarantula nebula is an incredbily bright place also. Despite the nebula being in another galaxy 160,000 light years away it has a magnitude of 8 which is well within reach of most telescopes. In fact, if the tarantula nebula replaced the Orion nebula in our galaxy it would be so bright that it would cast shadows on our planet.

Tarantula Nebula TRAPPIST.jpg

The Tarantula nebula by TRAPPIST/E. Jehin/ESO

If you wanted to try to see this star it can be found in the R136 Supercluster (the bright centre of the nebula in the picture above) at coordinates:

RA: 05h 38m 42.43s   

DEC: −69° 06′ 02.2″

This is in the southern hemisphere.

Here is a close-up of the R136 supercluster taken by the Hubble telescope:

R136 HST 2009-12-15.jpg

The video below demonstrates the position and makes a comparison of the size of the star along with some of the incredible facts about this truly massive and incredibly bright star that shouldn't really exist at all.

Now find out about the biggest star or the smallest star

Find more on: Astronomy News and Science

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