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Huge Star that Dwarfs the Sun May be Heaviest Ever

5:16 PM, Jul 21, 2010   |    comments
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A team of astronomers says a huge ball of burning gas drifting in a neighboring galaxy may be the heaviest star ever discovered, burning itself off at 10 million times the luminosity of the sun, the Royal Astronomical Society reports.

Astrophysicist Paul Crowther says the star, called R136a1, is twice as heavy as any previously discovered and may once have weighed as much as 320 solar masses.

The team found several stars with surface temperatures over 40,000 degrees, more than seven times hotter than the sun, according to the Royal Astronomical Society.

Crowther, an astrophysicist at the University of Sheffield in northern England, says the huge star was identified at the center of a star cluster in the Tarantula Nebula, a sprawling cloud of gas and dust in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy about 165,000 light-years away from our own Milky Way.

It was the biggest of several giants identified by Crowther and his team in an article in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

While other stars, such as the red giants, can be larger, they weigh far less.

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