Scientists find mega star 10 MILLION times brighter than the sun

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 4:31 PM EST

R136a1 may not be the sexiest name for a star, but this one more than makes up for that with enthusiasm, what with being a hypergiant and all. And not just any hypergiant—R136a1 turns out to be the heaviest star EVER found.

According to CNN, Paul Crowther (a professor of astrophysics at England's University of Sheffield) and his team detected R136a1 while using the the Very Large Telescope (original name, huh?) in Chile in conjunction with data from the Hubble Telescope.

What's so special about this star? It's just like the million billion other ones in the sky, right? No. Not by a long shot. Let's break down some of this big guy's stats:

R136a1 At A Glance:

  • 10 million times brighter than the sun
  • home: the Tarantula Nebula, in the Large Magellanic Cloud
  • 165,000 light years away from Earth's Milky Way galaxy
  • surface temperatures: 40,000 degrees Celsius (72,000 degrees Fahrenheit), seven times hotter than the sun
  • over a million years old, and has already lost 1/5 of its initial mass
  • the heaviest star ever found, with a mass roughly 265 times more than our sun
  • original solar mass: 320. (astronomers used to think that 150 was the limit).
  • Earth would be incinerated if R136a1 were anywhere near us (astronomically speaking)
  • fate: in another million years (give or take) the hypergiant will die as it goes supernova

Crowther published his findings in latest issue of The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.