London: A huge ball of brightly burning gas
drifting through a neighbouring galaxy may be the heaviest
star ever discovered, hundreds of times more massive than the
sun, scientists said today after working out its weight for
the first time.
Those behind the find say the star, called R136a1, may
once have weighed as much as 320 solar masses.
Paul Crowther said the obese star, twice as heavy as any
previously discovered, has already slimmed down considerably
over its lifetime.
In fact, it`s burning itself off with such intensity that
it shines at nearly 10 million times the luminosity of the
"Unlike humans, these stars are born heavy and lose
weight as they age," said Crowther, an astrophysicist at the
University of Sheffield in northern England.
"R136a1 is already middle-aged and has undergone an
intense weight loss program."
Crowther said the giant was identified at the centre 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.
The star was the most massive of several giants
identified by Crowther and his team in an article in the
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.