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Space Science

Scientists Discover Biggest Star 202

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the bigger-than-miley dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Scientists at the University of Sheffield have discovered the most massive stellar giant, R136a1 measured at 265 solar masses, using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile and data from the Hubble Space Telescope. It's in the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small 'satellite' galaxy which orbits the Milky Way. Previously, the heaviest known stars were around 150 times the mass of the Sun, known as the 'Eddington Limit,' and this was believed to be close to the cosmic size limit because as stars get larger, the amount of energy created in their cores grows faster than the force of gravity which holds them together. 'Because of their proximity to the Eddington Limit they lose mass at a pretty high rate,' says Professor Paul Crowther, the chief researcher in the Sheffield team. Hyper-stars like R136a1 are believed to be formed from several young stars merging together, and are only found in the very heart of stellar clusters. R136a1 is believed to have a surface temperature of more than 40,000 degrees Celsius, and is 10 million times brighter than the Sun. Crowther adds that R136a1 is about as big as stars can get. 'Owing to the rarity of these monsters, I think it is unlikely that this new record will be broken any time soon.'"
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Scientists Discover Biggest Star

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  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:02AM (#32978038) Journal

    "Owing to the rarity of these monsters, I think it is unlikely that this new record will be broken any time soon.""

    Owing to the size of the universe, I think it is likely that this new record will be broken sometime soon.

    Two theories, now let's sit back and see who's right!

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:07AM (#32978104) Homepage

      Two theories, now let's sit back and see who's right!

      I think he'll be right for human scales of "soon", and you'll be right for cosmological scales.

      • by severoon (536737)
        From TFA:

        Owing to the rarity of these monsters, I think it is unlikely that this new record will be broken any time soon.

        Yea, the only way we'd stand a good chance of finding a bigger star than this would be...well, let's just say there'd have to be thousands of stars for that to even be possible.

        • by sycodon (149926)

          Crowther adds that R136a1 is about as big as stars can get.

          Right.

          That's what Eddintgon said [mit.edu]

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          Yea, the only way we'd stand a good chance of finding a bigger star than this would be...well, let's just say there'd have to be thousands of stars for that to even be possible.

          The odds of such a star existing is very, very different than the odds of us finding it. The circumstances where you'll find one aren't just anywhere. There are certainly plenty such places in the universe, but not so many where we could actually see them and resolve the individual stars, which was a challenge even in this case.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by elocinanna (1640479)
      I think more to the point is the size of the bit of the universe we can observe and then process the results of observation for. Something this big is rare for us to see from Earth as it stands and so without an improvement in technology or increase in resources spent on star-gazing it'll remain to be an impressive feat to find another of this size.

      ..Of course if we talk of this without taking our earthly abilities into account it just turns into a game of looking for an extremely large needle in an infi
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        without an improvement in technology

        Can you give me an example of an epoch of human history when there was not an "improvement in technology"?

      • ...a game of looking for an extremely large needle in an infinite haystack.

        I think I saw that porno once. It was almost as hot as this star.

    • by Random Data (538955) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:09AM (#32978122)
      Two theories, now let's sit back and see who's right

      No theories, but two hypotheses. One of which is actually based on modelling and thought, the other on intuition that the Universe is a big place.

      You may be right, but because the Universe is such a big place I *don't* think it's likely to be broken soon, since it's bloody hard to look around. The Tarantula Nebula is nice because it's recent, dense and relatively close, which means this could be found. Of course, they're all relative terms. We've been looking at the Tarantula Nebula for at least 250 years, and we've only found this one now...

      • by v1k (958019) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:23AM (#32978338)

        >intuition that the Universe is a big place.

        Dude, the universe is a big place. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the drug store, but that's just peanuts to the universe.

          • TSIA

            I hate acronym abuse. Why can't people just speak fucking English? I mean, not even Google can decipher this post! Technology Services Industry Association? Twinkies? What the fuck are you waffling about?

            Sheesh!

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by bunratty (545641)
          You've just given me flashbacks to my time in the total perspective vortex, you insensitive clod!
        • Dude, the universe is a big place.

          Nah, it can't be that big, or else how could the multiverse host infinite universes?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fiannaFailMan (702447)

          >intuition that the Universe is a big place.

          Dude, the universe is a big place. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the drug store, but that's just peanuts to the universe.

          "Dude?" "Drug store?" Please don't tell me they translated the Hitchhiker's Guide into American English!

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Nutria (679911)

        One of which is actually based on modelling and thought

        Except that the Eddington Limit was also based on modeling and thought, but was then smashed by reality.

        2.5 years ago, astronomers with a spreadsheet "discovered" that the Milky Way is really 2x thicker than previously accepted.

        While I'm glad that Science allows scientists to alter their theories and beliefs, ISTM that too many astronomers/cosmologists think they know far more than they really know.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by lgw (121541)

          Except that the Eddington Limit was also based on modeling and thought, but was then smashed by reality.

          Hardly "smashed" by reality - this is how real science works! Real science involves falsifiable hypotheses. If the hypothesis is good, you learn something useful even by finding exceptions. "Based on our best models this is as big as it gets - but wait, here's something interesting."

          With good science, you admit that exceptions are interestng, and while your model usually makes accurate predictions, a fundamental assumption might just be wrong. Investigating the corner cases where usually-accurate models

          • by Nutria (679911)

            With junk science, you tweak your model

            Isn't that what all modelers do on a regular basis?

            to explain the new data too, and dismiss the exceptions as meaningless

            I have a premonition...

            This particular star is likely not an interesting exception

            Did you just call yourself a junk scientist?

        • by shermo (1284310)

          "We think it's unlikely there will be any stars bigger than the Eddington limit"

          "Ok we found one significantly bigger than the Eddington limit. Now we really think it's unlikely we'll find stars bigger than this one, really."

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Zcar (756484)

        Yep. Is there a bigger star out there? Almost certainly. Is there a bigger star out there where we have to ability to observe it? This is where it gets difficult.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:19AM (#32978288)

      We can't readily measure the size of stars across the whole universe, and you think that our likelihood of finding a star even closer to the Eddington limit is a slam-dunk? I think the guy who found this one has a pretty good idea how hard they are to come across.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      "In theory, practice and theory are the same. In practice, they are not."
    • by SETIGuy (33768) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @12:01PM (#32978846) Homepage

      Owing to the size of the universe, I think it is likely that this new record will be broken sometime soon.

      The record is for the largest one found, not the largest one in the universe. These things are pretty difficult to find. They're all in dense clusters in active star forming regions. The cluster R136 is so dense that prior to the launch of HST we thought that there were fewer stars in it, but each of those stars would have been several hundred solar masses. HST was able to resolve those superstars into multiple smaller (50 solar mass) stars. Except for this one, apparently.

      We haven't found any equivalent star clusters in the Milkyway (yet). It's possible there aren't any. Maybe something about the composition or dynamics of Galactic gas prevents such large stars from forming. No other galaxy would be close enough that we could resolve cluster into individual stars. The SMC doesn't have active star formation. So we're stuck with the LMC as a target for finding a larger star. There's no other cluster in the LMC like R136, so to break this record we'd probably need to find a larger star in the same cluster. Or we would need to find out that R136a1 is a multiple star system containing 2 or more smaller stars rather than one star of 265 solar masses.

      As far as how significant this is... I'm sure it will drive star formation theorists nuts trying to build stars that big in a cluster environment. But as a find, in and of itself, they looked for a really huge star in what is well known as the only place you're going to possibly find a really huge star. It seems kind of like "discovering" a route from your front door to the bus stop when you know where both of them are. Given how many people are interested in star forming regions, I'm kind of wondering why nobody did it earlier. I may have to read the paper to see if some interesting or difficult technique was necessary.

    • Here is a posting [sciencemag.org] on Science Magazine's ScienceNow, and here is the original journal article [eso.org] originally published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomy Society. I think it is always better, when possible to refer to original sources when talking about scientific issues. Scientific discussions can become muddled when translated by journalists.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      You makee mistakee.

      It's somewhat certain that there are stars larger than this one, even if they're wayyyyyyy out on the long tail of the distribution, which itself drops off like a cliff somewhere beyond this one due to the nonlinearity of the processes occurring in larger stars (they tend to explode-implode into your darker dwarves and holes).

      But it's also almost certain that we won't detect one of them for a long time, since, as you nearly pointed out, astronomy budgets are somewhat wee compared to the s

      • I'd also have to imagine with that much mass and considering the amount of energy it's outputting that it's life span for a star would be relatively short.
    • by Abstrackt (609015)

      "Owing to the rarity of these monsters, I think it is unlikely that this new record will be broken any time soon.""

      Owing to the size of the universe, I think it is likely that this new record will be broken sometime soon.

      Two theories, now let's sit back and see who's right!

      Science would be a lot more fun if scientists solved disputes with death matches.

  • by elocinanna (1640479) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:03AM (#32978048)
    Anyone could find something if it's that big! Wake me up when they find the smallest one! :p
  • comparison animations, as we are now more inconsequential than ever!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by RivenAleem (1590553)

      Just you wait until some committee somewhere out there decides that the sun is too small and inconsequential to be classed as a real star. If it happened to Pluto...

    • comparison animations, as we are now more inconsequential than ever!

      Sentence fragments are really

      • Read the subject, then the body. The first part of his sentence is the subject. The second part of it is the body of the comment.....
  • Maybe they should have named it Rieshai instead of using numbers.
    • by Sique (173459)

      Which would be (rather bad) German and could be translated as "wet meadow shark" (even though the term "Ries" for a wet, grassy plain is not often used in contemporary German).

  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:06AM (#32978086) Journal

    Clearly obesity is not just a problem on earth.

  • Mass vs Radius (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheMidnight (1055796) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:15AM (#32978230)
    One thing the article didn't mention was the radius of the new star. It's obviously larger than the sun, but is it the "largest" star found or simply the most massive? It seems with that kind of mass it might be denser than your average supergiant and have less volume, and therefore less radius.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by AstroMatt (1594081)
      Stars on the main sequence get less dense the hotter/brighter they are. When the evolve off the main sequence, they get bigger still. It's likely this has the largest radius, too. Very interesting formation mechanism ... stellar collisions!
    • One thing the article didn't mention was the radius of the new star. It's obviously larger than the sun, but is it the "largest" star found or simply the most massive? It seems with that kind of mass it might be denser than your average supergiant and have less volume, and therefore less radius.

      It's blue, therefore it's hot, therefore it's dense, therefore it's (comparatively) small. VY Canis Majoris would be much larger, even if not so massive - and cooler, and therefore red. Indeed, notice the diagram i

      • by delt0r (999393)
        You are wrong because you have completely neglected the heat source. More massive stars are hotter because they burn more fuel. The volume to surface area ratio means the cores are hotter and larger compared to a less massive star, that means more fusion. So as stars get more massive, they get hotter and less dense and hence have a larger radius.
        • Ah, but core temperature isn't what we're interested in here. We're interested in the surface temperature. What are the dynamics of a star's atmosphere - of the outer layers of gas not participating in nuclear fusion? Well, there's gas pressure which tends to make the atmosphere expand and cool, and gravity which tends to make the atmosphere contract and heat up. As the atmosphere expands and cools, gas pressure decreases, and as the atmosphere contracts and warms, thermal pressure increases, and eventually
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by olsmeister (1488789)
      Red giant stars would have a much larger radius. The radius of R136a1 is estimated at something like 30 times that of the sun. [bbc.co.uk] It is thought that our own sun, when reaching the end of its lifetime, may expand past the orbit of the earth, or 93,000,000/432,000: about 215 times it's original radius.

      Here is the link to the original paper. [eso.org]
  • On the contrary, the record is probably being broken currently, or maybe even was broken millions/billions of years ago, but the light has yet to reach us, our technology is unable to detect it, or we arnt looking in the right direction.
    • by Nadaka (224565)

      The thing about records is...

      They are not really records until they are recorded.

      • by rossdee (243626)

        Recorded by who?

      • by necro81 (917438)
        There's bound to be some sort of koan [wikipedia.org] in there, along the lines of the tree falling in the forest:

        If a really freakin' huge star is created in the universe and no one is around to observe it, does it break a record?
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by osu-neko (2604)

          If a really freakin' huge star is created in the universe and no one is around to observe it, does it break a record?

          That one's easy, as there are no unrecorded records, by definition. The real question is, lacking any observation, does it even exist, or does it just probably exist, or "exist" in an undetermined state until observed? And what counts as "observation"?

  • by metamechanical (545566) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:17AM (#32978264)

    For anyone curious, as I was, what the surface temperature of our star is: 5500 degrees C

    My source was NASA's world book page [nasa.gov] (then again, it goes on to state that our solar system has nine planets, so trust NASA at your own risk)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      Huge props to the guy that managed to stick a thermometer in it!
    • by Muad'Dave (255648) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @01:24PM (#32980016) Homepage

      For anyone curious, as I was, what the surface temperature of our star is: 5500 degrees C

      Which you can derive from noting the Sun's yellow color (approximately 570–590 nm) and applying Planck's Law [wikipedia.org] or Wein's Displacement Law [wikipedia.org] in reverse. Note that this pic [wikipedia.org] shows the 5500 degree C peak aligns well with 500-600 nm.

      From the Wein's Displacement article:

      " * The surface temperature (or more correctly, the effective temperature) of the Sun is 5778 K. Using Wien's law, this temperature corresponds to a peak emission at a wavelength of 2.89777 million nm K/ 5778 K = 502 nm = about 5000 Å. This wavelength is fairly in the middle of the most sensitive part of land animal visual spectrum acuity. Even nocturnal and twilight-hunting animals must sense light from the waning day and from the moon, which is reflected sunlight with this same wavelength distribution. Also, the average wavelength of starlight maximal power is in this region, due to the sun being in the middle of a common temperature range of stars.

      [See for example the article color, because of the spread resulting in white light. Due to the Rayleigh scattering of blue light by the atmosphere this white light is separated somewhat, resulting in a blue sky and a yellow sun]."

      [Emphasis mine]

      See also:

      http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2002/TahirAhmed.shtml [hypertextbook.com]

    • It does have 9 planets. Vulcan's real you insensitive clod! [wikipedia.org]
    • by khallow (566160) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @04:04PM (#32982454)

      then again, it goes on to state that our solar system has nine planets, so trust NASA at your own risk

      Argh, this nonsense again. The IAU dropped the ball and we remain without an adequate definition of what a planet is. "Clearing the neighborhood" remains undefined and there are ways to define "neighborhood", as a large loci in space-time around the trajectory of the object in question, so that Pluto, and perhaps even Ceres and some of the dwarf planet candidates, clear their neighborhoods. The point here is that while a considerable number of astronomers intend a particular definition of "neighborhood" (as a spherical shell around the Sun), that definition has not been adopted nor, I might add, does it seem all that useful.

      Semantically, it's also a mess since we have "minor planets" and now "dwarf planets" which are not "planets". Also, it just confuses the issue for the billions of people who were taught for decades that Pluto was a planet. I find the redefinition of "planet" to be inconsiderate of their needs and as a result rather frivilous abuse of IAU's power. Just because we had a similar screw up back when Ceres was demoted as a planet, doesn't mean that we need to repeat this error.

      Finally, this definition only applies to the Solar System. We'd have enormous difficult applying this definition anywhere else. It would be hard and time consuming to verify the dynamics of other star systems in enough detail to distinguish between planets and dwarf planets using such a definition. And those systems may have orbital dynamics that are far different from the nearly circular orbits of planets in the Solar System.

      Personally, I have no problems with eight, nine, or hundreds of planets. But I think it reasonable that the definition of planet have a scientific basis. That bit is the common view I share with the people who came up with the current definition. But I think it's been an embarrassment to come up with the current weak and unuseful definition and then attempt to sell it as being scientific (remember the old definition happens to be much more well-defined and hence, scientific than the new one, people were just concerned about the growing number of objects that would be considered planets).

      Personally, I find it more credible that we're just seeing a continuation (in intellectually mutated form) of the old, irrational opposition to Pluto's original naming. Its first two letters, "P" and "L" happen to be, either by coincidence or artifice, the initials of Percival Lowell, the man who had established and funded the observatory that discovered Pluto.

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        "Clearing the neighborhood" remains undefined and there are ways to define "neighborhood", as a large loci in space-time around the trajectory of the object in question, so that Pluto, and perhaps even Ceres and some of the dwarf planet candidates, clear their neighborhoods.

        You have a fair point that the definition of "neighborhood" is vague, but all sensible attempts at least refer to the entire orbit and not just the immediate vicinity of the planet. By that standard, vagueness notwithstanding, it is obv

  • ... a star so large if you swapped it with our sun it's surface would extend past Saturn's orbit.

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:20AM (#32978298)

    I puzzled over this for a bit too, but this newly discovered star is the most massive discovered. The largest known star in terms of size is still VY Canis Majoris at ~2000 solar radii, but only ~20 times the mass of the Sun.

    • Re:Anonymous Coward (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:50AM (#32978720) Homepage

      Well yeah, the first line of the summary says "most massive", which in astronomy is usually (usually) what "biggest" means.

      Though it is admittedly ambiguous. I was watching Jeopardy (a taped episode a friend of mine was in and *won*) and one of the answers was "It's the biggest planet after Jupiter and Saturn", and the correct question was "Neptune?" (the 3rd most massive) but the contestant questioned "Uranus?" (3rd largest diameter). The judges ended up accepting it due to the ambiguity of the question.

      And I know that I personally consider the Jeopardy judges to be the ultimate authority on when something is ambiguous and multiple interpretations are valid!

  • by jbeaupre (752124) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:24AM (#32978358)
    she breaks the Eddington limit! (sorry, couldn't help myself)
  • by Octoploid (855458) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:24AM (#32978360)
    Here is the link to the research paper: http://arxiv.org/abs/1007.3284 [arxiv.org]
  • VY Canis Majoris (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Spacelem (189863) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:24AM (#32978364)

    The article states that R136a1 is 265 solar masses, however it doesn't say how big it is.

    VY Canis Majoris is 2,100 times the size of the sun, and 230,000 times the size of Earth. It is so huge, that if it occupied the centre of our solar system, its boundaries would be Saturn's orbit.

    If R136a1 is the heaviest star, then it must be considerably more dense than VY Canis Majoris, but I find the latter to be far more impressive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      You are correct! I am an astronomer and want to straighten out a few things. When it comes to stars, MASS is what matters. Mass governs the size, lifetime, luminosity, and temperature of the star. To form a star gas clouds in the galaxy slowly collapse under their own gravity and form dense clumps, these clumps continue to collapse sometimes forming a single or multiple stars. In the centers of the largest star forming regions, these clumps are very dense and are close to each other which increases the prob
  • These scientists are quite late to the party. Tamilians had discovered the Biggest Star, The Super Star, Rajnikant [wikipedia.org] way back in 1975.
  • "Unlike humans, these stars are born heavy and lose weight as they age,"

    If I get burned to death by Johnathan Winters I'm going to be PISSED!

  • 256 solar masses? I thought everything over 10 solar masses collapses into itself, forming a black hole. What's going on with this star?
    • The same thing keeping any star from collapsing: fusion. Black holes form when a star of sufficient mass (which is where the Tolman–Oppenheimer–Volkoff limit of 10 solar masses comes in) can't support itself through nuclear reaction in its core. See also supernovae.
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Just because it hasn't collapsed into itself yet doesn't mean it isn't going to eventually. This is a very young star formed by merging several other together. Once it's fusion engine slows down, it should collapse. It's not like these things happen overnight!
  • The more massive the star, the shorter its life as it burns through its fuel more quickly.

    Stars smaller than the sun are believed to endure for hundreds of billions or even trillions of years.

    Stars of near the suns size last for billions to tens of billions of years.

    Large stars are believed to last for tens or hundreds of millions of years.

    The largest previously known stars at up to a hundred times the suns mass are believed to live for only a few hundred thousand or million years.

    How long will this star la

    • I'm no expert by any means but here are some numbers I pulled out of...Google. By extrapolating from what this guy says [nasa.gov] I get an answer of about only 750,000 years and judging by what else I've read that number is probably very low. Not that long on the cosmic scale but a little longer than you or I will be around for.

  • by fuego451 (958976) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:57AM (#32978804) Journal
    How do they measure that? As an amateur astronomer, I understand relative magnitude but...wow. I'm guessing they use some other method? Also, would this star be considered a super-massive blue giant or...?
    • by Kaz Kylheku (1484) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @12:52PM (#32979540) Homepage

      I'm guessing that what it probably means is that this star is estimated at having ten million times the power output compared to the Sun. Therefore, at some fixed reference distance, it would deliver ten million times more watts of illumination per square meter. This doesn't mean that the surface brightness is ten million times greater than that of the Sun, because some of the brightness comes from the greater size of the star. If you make a lamp with one hundred light bulbs, they are not individually brighter than a single light bulb, but as an aggregate, they provide more illumination, and can be more easily seen from farther away.

  • by oddTodd123 (1806894) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @12:25PM (#32979148)

    I need that in units I can comprehend:

    The mass of the sun is 1.99x10^30kg. The average mass of a book is 340g. There are 21,814,555 books cataloged by the Library of Congress. So, 265 solar masses * 1.99x10^30kg/solar mass * 1000g/kg / 340g/book / 21,814,555 books/LoC = 7.1x10^25LoC. Therefore, the new star is equivalent in mass to 71YLoC (yotta Libraries Of Congress). Wow, that's a big star!

  • 256 solar masses should be enough for anyone.
  • by Kaz Kylheku (1484) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @12:42PM (#32979408) Homepage

    From article: "Unlike humans, these stars are born heavy and lose weight as they age," Crowther said.

    This is obviously wrong. Some humans are plump when young, and turn into skeletons as they age.
    In fact, this is commonly observed among those humans who, ironically, are called ``stars''.

    • by shaitand (626655)

      The gp didn't refer to plumpness, he referred to weight. Those old skeletons still weigh more than infants.

  • by PPH (736903)
    Marlon Brando. Old news.
  • Scientsist Discover Biggest Star : Kirstie Alley.

  • I thought the answer would be "Jones".
  • I've read numerous articles in the past dealing with supermassive stars and as often as not, the largest stars turn out to be binaries, i.e. what they thought was a 300 solar mass star was simply two 150 solar mass stars. However, I read the paper on arxiv (http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1007/1007.3284v1.pdf) and it appears that the scientists have ruled that out. The thinking is that if it was actually two unresolved stars revolving around each other, their stellar winds would collide and produce x-

  • Beautiful.
    An accurate and descriptive term.
    Anything else would detract from the truth--something simply is what it is.

    We must get sales and marketing involved for the next one, though!
    We need a snappy name--something that really pops--for several of them working together, perhaps arranged in some sort of an array?

    • I Agree. R136a1 is hardly a good name for one of the biggest.

      My girlfriend suggested Prometheus for the big one.

      Maybe 'the four horsemen' ?

  • It seems to me that this Eddington limit idea depends on all the matter that's gravitationally bound to the star's atmosphere participate in the fusion reactions at the core of the star. What about matter that doesn't participate in those kinds of reactions? Wouldn't a preponderance of dark matter allow a star to form that's much bigger than the Eddington limit since the dark matter wouldn't be participating in energy releasing fusion reactions?

    And why isn't it possible that this star is one such?

  • I'm curious, does anyone know how/if they can tell it's not a binary star system, i.e. two stars that are each below the Eddington limit?

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