Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Monster Star Is Master Of The Universe

A huge star a staggering 320 times the size of the Sun has been found by scientists - and quickly labelled the biggest ever discovered.

An artist's impression showing the relative sizes of young stars. Picture: ESO/M Kornmesser
The Sun is truly dwarfed by the darker blue R136a1 star
The UK-led team behind the incredible discovery - headed by Professor Paul Crowther - has also said the giant star is around 10 million times brighter than the Sun.
Using the European Southern Observatory's aptly-named Very Large Telescope and Nasa's Hubble Space Telescope, the find was made during a study of two clusters of stars in a galaxy next to our own solar system called the Large Magellanic Cloud.
If the enormous star replaced the Sun in our galaxy, it would outshine it to the same degree as the Sun outshines the full Moon and reduce the Earth's year to just three weeks, the scientists claim.

Until now, experts had accepted that stars could be a maximum of 150 times the mass of the Sun.
Within the cluster, several stars were found to be larger than that but one - R136a1 - stood out.
Bizarrely, stars lose weight during their life.
Describing it as "middle-aged", Professor Crowther believes R136a1 has shed around a fifth of its mass since its birth just over a million years ago - but it is still currently a mind-boggling 265 times larger than the Sun.
The University of Sheffield academic said: "Owing to the rarity of these monsters, it is unlikely that this new record will be broken any time soon."
The findings are published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The young cluster of stars RMC 136a. Picture: ESO/P Crowther/CJ Evans
The star was found within a cluster and is described as 'middle-aged'
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