Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Massive Star Revealed

Giant stellar nursery surrounding the new star NGC 3603
A team of astrophysicists, under the leadership of Paul Crowther, has revealed to the world, two young cluster of stars, NGC 3603 and RMC 136a. The twins are found fit to be called the "Super-heavy weight champions" of the observable parts of the Universe.

The crew of astronomers has used European Southern Observatory(ESO)'s Very Large Telescope(VLT) as well as archival data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to analyse the different parameters of the newly discovered stars. The statistically verified data put forth by the crew about the masses and luminous intensity, surprises the astronomers all over the world.

Out of the two, the star NGC 3603 seems to be a cosmic factory from where a cluster of stars frantically emanate, from the nebula's extended clould of gas and dust, located 22,000 light years from the Sun.

The Massive star clusters on Large Megallanic Cloud.
It's counter-part RMC 136a(fondly called R136) is found to be another cluster of hot and massive stars, well located inside the Tarantula Nebula, in the large Megallanic Cloud, at a distance of 165,000 light years from the sun. It is also noteworth that this Megallanic Cloud, is one of the neighboring galaxies of our Milky way.

The team has also put forth a sum-up data of the images captured by the ESO's VLT which reveal that these stars weigh 265 times the mass of the sun. This data has traumatized several scientists and astronomers who reckoned that the most massive of all stars would not weigh more than 150 solar masses.
To their surprise, the birth masses of these two stars, estimated by the crew is close to 320 solar masses.

"Unlike humans, these stars are born heavy and lose weight as they age" says, Dr.Paul Crowther, Astrophysicist. Yup. It makes a point, though seems to be funny.

"Being a little over a million years old, the most extreme star R136a1 is already 'middle-aged' and has undergone an intense weight loss programme, shedding a fifth of its initial mass over that time, or more than fifty solar masses", added Dr.Paul Crowther.

What if such a massive star be taking the place of our sun?? Mind-blowing, isn't it??

"Its high mass would reduce the length of the Earth's year to three weeks, and it would bathe the Earth in incredibly intense ultraviolet radiation, rendering life on our planet impossible," says Rapheal Hirschi from Keele University, who was one among the crew members.

Not just this discovery, but the team has also predicted how massive a star could be, withing this cluster. "The smallest stars are limited to more than about eighty times more than Jupiter, below which they are ‘failed stars’ or brown dwarfs," says Olivier Schnurr, from the Astrophysikalisches Institut Postdam.

As the Indian Astrophysicist Dr.Subrahmaniyan Chandrasekhar quoted, less massive stars, having their masses less than 8 solar masses would shed enough mass, eventually become white dwarf. He has also added that more massive star of masses close to 150 solar masses would ultimately become either neutron-star or a black-hole. This theory is well known to the world as "Chandrasekhar's limit". Now the question is about the stability and existence of these lately discovered stars which weigh almost 300 solar masses. This fact poses the previous theory, a contradiction, which would be solved soon, I guess.

But the sad part about these stars is that they will "die soon". Yup. But don't panic. In astronomy, 3 million years is really short. And that could be the clue. Small life-span of these stars could be the reason why such massive stars are not being witnessed then and there. These are rare and are found only on densest clusters of the Universe. 

But, what is the use of these stars being several times luminous than the sun?? People of this generation never show any interest in comprehending  these kind of stars. Instead, they show a huge craze on cine-stars and pop-stars. Cheers. \m/


  1. Had seen it in the newspaper but didn't feel like reading. You've made it a far more interesting read :-)

  2. Thank you Indrajit. It is the comments, you give, which makes me passionate on writing.

    As you know, writing science is a difficult task to do, because 7 out of 10 feels it dry. So, science writers like me should rely upon the encouragements and words of appreciation given by some readers like you.

    I happened to see your article "Top ten reasons for Blogging". That was very nice. In fact, it has been nicely presented with some sense of logic, speckled with fun and sarcasm. Really interesting.

    regards, Varadha Yamunan...\m/