Mostly Mute Monday: The Largest Star in the Universe (Synopsis)

“The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” –Lao Tzu

With hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, you’d think the largest star we’ve ever discovered would be in the most intense star-forming regions here, perhaps towards the galactic center. It’s a good thought, as we’ve discovered stars up to 175 solar masses there, but it’s wrong.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, ESO, D. Lennon and E. Sabbi (ESA/STScI), J. Anderson, S. E. de Mink, R. van der Marel, T. Sohn, and N. Walborn (STScI), N. Bastian (Excellence Cluster, Munich), L. Bedin (INAF, Padua), E. Bressert (ESO), P. Crowther (Sheffield), A. de Koter (Amsterdam), C. Evans (UKATC/STFC, Edinburgh), A. Herrero (IAC, Tenerife), N. Langer (AifA, Bonn), I. Platais (JHU) and H. Sana (Amsterdam).
Image credit: NASA, ESA, ESO, D. Lennon and E. Sabbi (ESA/STScI), J. Anderson, S. E. de Mink, R. van der Marel, T. Sohn, and N. Walborn (STScI), N. Bastian (Excellence Cluster, Munich), L. Bedin (INAF, Padua), E. Bressert (ESO), P. Crowther (Sheffield), A. de Koter (Amsterdam), C. Evans (UKATC/STFC, Edinburgh), A. Herrero (IAC, Tenerife), N. Langer (AifA, Bonn), I. Platais (JHU) and H. Sana (Amsterdam).

As it turns out, the largest star we know of is located some 160,000 light years away in the local group’s fourth largest galaxy: the Large Magellanic Cloud. At the very center of the Tarantula Nebula, itself 1000 light years across, lies the star cluster R136, which contains at its core a single star some 260 times the mass and more than seven million times the luminosity of our Sun.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, F. Paresce (INAF-IASF, Bologna, Italy), R. O’Connell (University of Virginia, Charlottesville), and the Wide Field Camera 3 Science Oversight Committee.
Image credit: NASA, ESA, F. Paresce (INAF-IASF, Bologna, Italy), R. O’Connell (University of Virginia, Charlottesville), and the Wide Field Camera 3 Science Oversight Committee.

Go get the whole story — in pictures, video and words — on today’s Mostly Mute Monday!