Gigantic Star 150 Times Sun Found in Adjacent Galaxy

Eso1117b A super massive, isolated star has been discovered in the Large Magellanic Cloud, adjacent to the Milky Way. The star, VFTS 682, is one of the more massive stars ever known — about 150 times the mass of the Sun. Astronomers are baffled how such a massive star could form in its current isolated position. VFTS 682 is an exciting object that challenges theories of massive star formation.

The international team of astronomers who are publishing this discovery is involved in a large survey of the Tarantula Nebula in the LMC — a well-known stellar nursery. Their survey, carried out with the FLAMES instrument at the ESO/VLT, is meant to study massive stars there.

When it was first imaged a few years ago, VFTS 682 true size was obscured by dust clouds. The team has now shown that a large part of its light is absorbed and scattered by dust on its way to the Earth and that the star is actually much brighter and much more massive than originally thought.

Up to now, astronomers have believed that very massive stars (up to 300 times the mass of the Sun) could only exist at the center of very dense star clusters. The team members were therefore very surprised that VFTS 682 is situated away from any cluster. However, the star is near the rich star cluster R136, where very similar massive stars have been observed.

Some experts believe that star is might have been ejected from the cluster. Such "runaway stars" have already been observed but they are all much smaller, so much stronger gravitational effects are needed to explain the ejection of such a massive star.

The Daily Galaxy via Astronomy & Astrophysics

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Image credit: The star cluster R136 is located in the Tarantula Nebula. The star VFTS 682 is located about 100 light years from the cluster.


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