The most massive star known in the universe just got the best close-up ever, and reveals that the star may be smaller than astronomers previously thought.
Astronomers using the Gemini South Telescope in Chile photographed the star R136a1which is located about 160,000 light-years from Earth in the center of Tarantula Nebula In the Large Magellanic Cloud A companion dwarf galaxy to the Milky Way. Their observations show that the giant star (and the like) may not be as massive as previously thought.
according to a permit (Opens in a new tab) from NOIRLab of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which operates the Gemini South Telescope. “One particularly tricky part of this puzzle is getting observations of these giants, which usually dwell in the densely populated hearts of dust-shrouded star clusters.”
Related: What is the most massive star?
Gemini South’s Zorro instrument uses a technology known as speckle imaging, which combines thousands of short-exposure images of stars in the deep sea. Universe To cancel the blur effect for Earth’s atmosphere. This technique allowed astronomers to more accurately separate the brightness of R136a1 from its nearby stellar companions, resulting in the clearest image of the giant star yet.
While previous observations indicated that the size of R136a1 was between 250 to 320 times larger than that of the sunZorro’s new observations showed that the giant star’s mass may be closer to 170 to 230 times the mass of the Sun – which still qualifies it as the most massive star known.
“Our results show that the most massive star we currently know is not as massive as we previously thought,” Venu M. Kalari, lead author of the study and an astronomer at the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab, said in the statement. “This suggests that the upper limit of stellar masses may also be smaller than previously thought.”
a star brightness And the temperature depends on its mass. In other words, more massive stars appear brighter and hotter. Astronomers estimated R136a1’s mass by comparing its observed brightness and temperature with theoretical predictions. Because the new Zorro images more accurately separated the brightness of R136a1 from its nearby stellar companions, astronomers were able to estimate that the star has lower brightness, and therefore lower mass, than previous measurements, according to the statement.
Massive stars like R136a1 are growing rapidly, burning up their fuel reserves in just a few million years before dying a fiery death in Supernova bangs that seed galaxies With heavy elements responsible for the formation of new stars and planets. This is the fate of most stars over 150 times the mass of the Sun. However, if stellar masses are smaller than previously thought, supernovae may also be more rare than expected, the researchers note.
study was accepted for publication (Opens in a new tab) in The Astrophysical Journal.
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