Monsters lie in the Tarantula Nebula, located within the Large Magellanic Cloud. Their domain is 170,000 light-years away, and they appear as blue twinkles floating among iridescent clouds.
Using the NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have identified nine very massive stars in the star cluster R136. These stars boast masses 100 times larger than the sun’s. The find represents the largest sample of very massive stars found to date, according to NASA.
The research will be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
To get a glimpse of the very massive stars, the international science team used images taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and combined it with ultraviolet spatial resolution from the spacecraft’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.
“The detected stars are not only extremely massive, but also extremely bright,” according to the ESA. “Together these nine stars outshine the sun by a factor of 30 million.” In a month, the nine stars eject enough mass to fill the entire Earth, and do so at speeds nearly one percent the speed of light.
The researchers additionally found dozens of stars with masses surpassing 50 solar masses.
But the title of most massive star in the universe still belongs to R136a1, which is over 250 solar masses.
According to the ESA, very massive stars are usually found in very young star clusters. Their lifetimes last between two and three million years.
“There have been suggestions that these monsters result from the merger of less extreme stars in close binary systems,” said study co-author Saida Caballero-Nieves in a statement. “From what we know about the frequency of massive mergers, this scenario can’t account for all the really massive stars that we see in R136, so it would appear that such stars can originate from the star formation process.”
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