Mostly Mute Monday: The Largest Star in the Universe
It burns so hot and intense, it’s probably already gone. But what a sight!
“The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” -Lao Tzu
160,000 light years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud lies the Tarantula Nebula (30 Doradus), the largest star-forming nebula in the local group at over 1,000 light years across. Littered with millions upon millions of newly-formed stars, the gas, dust and ionized, X-ray emitting plasma tells a universal tale of cosmic rebirth that’s common to all the stars we can see. At the center of this nebula, though, the super star cluster — R136 — contains over half-a-million stars on its own, including the most massive one in the known Universe.
Containing 72 uniquely identified O-class and Wolf-Rayet stars in the central core, the shortest-lived, hottest, bluest and brightest stars in the Universe, it includes the record-holder R136a1, at 260 times the mass and more than 7,000,000 times the luminosity, mostly in the ultraviolet, of our Sun. Shown below in visible light, a UV-visible composite, infrared and then all wavelengths combined, a large number of these stars — only about a million years old — are likely already dead, with the light (and neutrinos) from supernovae destined to reach us at any time.
Mostly Mute Monday tells the story of a single object in images, videos, and 200 words, maximum. To celebrate Hubble’s 25th anniversary, April 2015 will focus exclusively on objects imaged, spectacularly with the Hubble Space Telescope.
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