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Herschel telescope `fingerprints` colossal star

Last Updated: Saturday, November 28, 2009 - 15:04

London: Europe`s new space telescope,
Herschel, has observed the "death throes" of the biggest star
known to science till date.

The European Space Agency`s billion-euro Herschel
observatory, which was sent into orbit on 14 May on an Ariane
rocket, has subjected the star -- VY Canis Majoris -- to a
detailed spectroscopic analysis.

It has allowed Herschel to identify the different types
of molecules and atoms that swirl away from the star which is
30-40 times as massive as our Sun.

Majoris is some 4,500 light-years from Earth and could
explode as a supernova at any time. It is colossal and if it
was sited at the centre of our solar system, it would extend
beyond the orbit of Saturn.

Herschel spectrometers have detected copious amounts of
carbon monoxide (CO) and water (H2O) in the vicinity of VY
Canis Majoris, the BBC reported.

"One of the most common molecules you see in this type
of observation is carbon monoxide," explained Professor Matt
Griffin, the Spire principal investigator from Cardiff
University, UK.

"That`s because carbon and oxygen are two of the most
common materials produced in stars and they like to get
together, so interstellar space is full of carbon monoxide,"
Griffin said.


First Published: Saturday, November 28, 2009 - 15:04

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