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article image‘Monster’ star up to 320 times the mass of the Sun discovered

By Paul Wallis     Jul 21, 2010 in Science
This star R136a1 in the Large Magellanic Cloud is a super-supergiant. It’s a different species of star and didn’t even exist in theory, prior to this discovery. The Sun would look like the Moon, in comparison.
The star was discovered by the Very Large Telescope in Chile. This is big news in more ways than one for astronomers. It’s part of a major star forming zone where giant, young stars are being formed. The group of stars which include R136a1 contains several stars which have temperatures measured at 40,000 degrees, compared to the Sun’s 5000 degrees.
R136a1 is a blue star, one of the Main Sequence giants, at the top of the Main Sequence’s range. Even dwarf blues stars make our G class room heater look like a tennis ball. R136a1 is twice as large as the biggest giants recorded.
This star is also a problem for the entropy theorists. Entropy, the “heat death of the universe” theory, has been getting a battering from recent findings. The tiny “tadpole” galaxies recently identified by Hubble and others which were the first galaxies didn’t explain much about how the massive galactic clusters of the present evolved.
The evolution of the energy present in the observable universe is a major question for theorists. Now R136a1 has even changed the paradigm for stars. The early galaxies did have big stars, but to increase mass to such sizes, and in such large numbers to produce the galactic clusters requires some very obvious mathematical progressions. These giant stars are adding a level of complexity to an already complex issue.
Astronomical research has just given itself another few decades of work with this discovery. If you’re a space fan, expect to hear a lot more about the physics of R136a1 and its associates.
More about R136a1, Very large telescope, Large magellanic cloud
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