Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Scientist Discover Star That Can't Exist

Tim Sayell brings to my attention a recently discovered star that is a very strange beast indeed. Up to this point scientist have put an upper limit on how massive a star can be. It had been determined that stars larger than 150 solar masses (150 times the size of our sun) could not exist. The reason? The energy that the core of a star produces exerts massive forces on the outer layers of a star's atmosphere. With out it, a star would collapse. However any larger than 150 sols and the force of the core will push the star apart and do so quite violently.

All was well until scientists recently discovered a star more than 300 solar masses, and no it has not and is not showing any signs of exploding!

From the device article:
  • The massive star is in a cluster of equally-massive stars called R136. Many of the young stars in this cluster were greater than 150 solar masses at birth, tens of times larger and several million times brighter. This particular one appears to have been born at a whopping 320 solar masses before shrinking to its current observable size of 265 solar masses. (stars shrink? who knew! pac)
From the Yahoo article:
  • Still, the mass of R136a1 and its ilk means they're tens of times bigger than the Earth's sun and they're brighter and hotter, too.
  • Surface temperatures can surpass 40,000 degrees Celsius (72,000 degrees Fahrenheit), seven times hotter than the sun. They're also several million times brighter.....
Still, massive stars do not enjoy long lives as compared to yellow dwarf or cooler stars. Usually only a few million years, making them extremely rare stars and very difficult to find R136 is in all likelihood already in late middle age and is in the process of blowing off huge amounts of mass.

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