Galaxy’s most massive star discovered

September 23rd, 2008 - 9:49 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Sep 23 (IANS) Canadian scientists have discovered the most massive star so far in the Milky WayResearchers from Montreal University (Université de Montréal), in collaboration with an international team of astrophysicists, have found that the super-massive star has a mass 116 times that of the sun.

Though theoretical models of stellar formation hint at the possibility of stars that can be 150 times the mass of the sun, no star 100 times the mass of the sun has been discovered yet.

The researchers - Olivier Schnurr, Jules Casoli and André-Nicolas Chené, Anthony Moffat and Nicole St-Louis - discovered the super-massive star in the company of yet another massive star whose mass is also 89 times that of the sun.

These two massive stars form a binary system, with the lighter star waltzing around its heavier companion. They have a rotation period of 3.77 days.

Located in the massive star cluster NGC 3603 of the Milky Way, the super-massive two-star binary system has been named A1, a university statement said.

NGC 3603 (entry number 3603 of the New General Catalogue) is a giant cloud of gas and plasma which is several hundred light years across and lies in the Constellation Carina in the Milky Way. It is about 20,000 light years from the sun.

The statement said the masses of these massive stars were calculated by a combination of observations made with the SINFONI (spectrometer for infra-red faint field imaging) instrument on the Very Large Telescope at the European Organisation for Astronomical Research centre in Chile, and infrared images coming from the Hubble Space Telescope.

The two stars are so massive and bright that the light they transmit shows characteristics that only Wolf-Rayet stars possess.

A Wolf-Rayet star is a hot, massive and evolved star exhibiting a very high loss of mass due to a strong stellar wind (similar to the solar wind), the statement said.

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