Universe’s biggest known star discovered by British astronomers
July 22, 2010 2 Comments
By Tom Chivers
The heaviest known star – with a mass 320 times greater than the Sun’s – has been discovered at the edge of our galaxy by British astronomers.
Scientists at the University of Sheffield found the stellar giant – named R136a1 – using the European southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and data from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Previously, the heaviest known stars were around 150 times the mass of the Sun, and this was believed to be close to the cosmic size limit.
( Photo Telegraph )
As stars get more massive the amount of energy created in their cores grows at a faster rate than the force of gravity which holds them together. The torrents of energy produced eventually become so powerful that the stars are torn apart.
This is known as the “Eddington Limit”, after the British physicist Arthur Eddington who, in 1919, proved Einstein’s theory of relativity by showing that light is bent by gravity.
It was believed that the Eddington Limit was reached at around 150 solar masses.
However, R136a1 has been measured at 265 solar masses. Since heavy stars rapidly lose mass as they grow older by converting it into energy, R136a1 has already lost 20 per cent of its mass in its short million-year life. It is believed originally to have been a colossal 320 solar masses.
The Sun, by comparison, has been burning for 4.57 billion years, and has converted only 0.03 per cent of its mass into energy. Read more at Telegraph.