Study: Massive star 10 million times as bright as our sun
LONDON — A huge ball of brightly burning gas drifting through a neighboring galaxy might be the heaviest star ever discovered — hundreds of times as massive as the sun, scientists said Wednesday after working out its weight for the first time.
Those behind the find say the star, called R136a1, might once have weighed as much as 320 times as much as our sun. Astrophysicist Paul Crowther said the obese star — twice as heavy as any previously discovered — has already slimmed down considerably over its lifetime.
In fact, it’s burning itself off with such intensity that it shines at nearly 10 million times the luminosity of the sun.
“Unlike humans, these stars are born heavy and lose weight as they age,” said Crowther, an astrophysicist at England’s University of Sheffield. “R136a1 is already middle-aged and has undergone an intense weight loss program.”
Crowther said the giant was identified at the center of a star cluster in the Tarantula Nebula, a sprawling cloud of gas and dust in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy about 165,000 lightyears away from our Milky Way galaxy.
The star was the most massive of several giants identified by Crowther and his team in a new article in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.