Of giant, and more modest, stars

The discovery of the most massive star ever observed makes the BBC’s, and other’s, headlines.  Identified by astronomers using a combination of new observations on ESO’s Very Large Telescope facility in Chile and data gathered previously with the Hubble Space Telescope, R136a1 has a mass about 265 times that of our own Sun.  Image credits ESO/P. Crowther/C.J. Evans.

It’s sited in a cluster known as RMC 136a, in the Large Magellanic Cloud, 165,000 light-years away.  From the BBC report

Many objects in the very first population of stars to shine shortly after the Big Bang are thought to have been monsters like R136a1.

When these objects blew apart, their cataclysmic demise was so violent they may not have left behind a remnant core of material as is often the case following a supernova; or even a black hole which is another common consequence, too.

Instead, these giants may simply have dumped all their contents back into space, dispersing heavy elements like iron equivalent to the mass of 10 of our Suns.

“The bigger picture to this research is that it gives us confidence that there were probably more of these really massive stars in much greater numbers early on in the Universe,” Professor Crowther told BBC News.

 This video zooms in on the R136 cluster as seen with the MAD adaptive optics instrument on the Very Large Telescope, starting from a wider view obtained with the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope.  Credit: ESO/P. Crowther/C.J. Evans

And of a more modest star?  Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory continues to provide stunning images of our own star, Sol.

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