Researchers estimate size of largest known star via sharpest optical image ever

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The distinction of being the most massive star ever discovered is held by R136a1, a massive star that is about 150 to 200 times the mass of the Sun. R136a1 is part of the R136 cluster, which is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud. In a new study, a team of astronomers has observed this cluster and, in the process, probed the largest known star. Finding the upper limit of stars is important for astronomers in understanding their cycles, galaxy history, and more.

Like the star it hosts, the cluster is also huge and contains many bright newborn stars. the team analyzed The sharpest optical picture ever taken of the cluster and estimated the masses of some of its stars. These include the larger R136a1, whose mass they estimate to be 200 times that of the Sun.

First, astronomers will observe the cluster — which includes R136a1 — using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope as well as ground-based telescopes. However, the images from these telescopes lack the sharpness to identify all the individual members of the cluster. Thanks to Gemini South’s Zorro instrument, which uses a technique called speckle imaging, scientists now have fastest images ever R136a1 so far.

Images captured by the Zorro Imager show that the size of R136a1 may be much smaller than previously estimated. In addition to its size, R136a1 also has a surface temperature of eight times that of the Sun and its radius is forty times larger.

By gaining an understanding of how common these massive stars are, astronomers can uncover the mechanisms behind their formation. It takes a large amount of gas in a short time to form such a massive star. Furthermore, apart from their complex mechanisms, these stars also do not live long and thus become very difficult for astronomers to detect. Therefore, the investigation of the star R136a1 can provide information about the history of galaxies.


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