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Massive star discovered

Massive star

 Comparison of a 0.1 solar red dwarf, a Sun-like star, a blue dwarf, and the newly discovered R136a1

Using a combination of new observations on the Very Large Telescope in Chile and data previously gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope, a star having a mass about 265 times that of the Sun was seen by astronomers. The star, which is simply known as R136a1 is the most massive ever found.

"Perhaps it is as much as 320 times that of the Sun. If it replaced the Sun in our Solar System, it would outshine by as much as the Sun currently outshines the full moon," said Professor Paul Crowther from Sheffield University of UK in an interview.

Crowther’s team observed and studied the NGC 3603 and RMC 136a clusters or the regions in space where thick clouds of gas and dust are broken into even denser clumps. Before exploding into supernovas, it is in these places where huge stars ignite to burn. 

The distance from the Sun of NGC 3603 is relatively close with 22,000 light years in cosmic terms compared to RMC 136a, also known R136, with 165,000 light years away and is situated within one of our neighbouring galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud.

The team also found stars with temperatures around 40,000 degrees which is more than seven times hotter than the Sun. The data gathered shows that these young stellar objects are extremely bright, massive and wide.

"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 said.

The full report is published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.