Hubble unveils monster stars

March 17, 2016
The image shows the central region of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The young and dense star cluster R136 can be seen at the lower right of the image. This cluster contains hundreds of young blue stars, among them the most massive star detected in the Universe so far. Using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope astronomers were able to study the central and most dense region of this cluster in detail. Here they found nine stars with more than 100 solar masses. Credit: NASA, ESA, P Crowther (University of Sheffield)

Astronomers using the unique ultraviolet capabilities of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have identified nine monster stars with masses over 100 times the mass of the Sun in the star cluster R136. This makes it the largest sample of very massive stars identified to date. The results, which will be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, raise many new questions about the formation of massive stars.

An international team of scientists using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has combined images taken with the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) with the unprecedented ultraviolet spatial resolution of the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) to successfully dissect the young star cluster R136 in the ultraviolet for the first time.

R136 is only a few light-years across and is located in the Tarantula Nebula within the Large Magellanic Cloud, about 170 000 light-years away. The young cluster hosts many extremely massive, hot and luminous whose energy is mostly radiated in the ultraviolet. This is why the scientists probed the ultraviolet emission of the cluster.

As well as finding dozens of stars exceeding 50 , this new study was able to reveal a total number of nine very in the cluster, all more than 100 times more massive as the Sun. However, the current record holder R136a1 does keep its place as the most massive star known in the Universe, at over 250 solar masses. The detected stars are not only extremely massive, but also extremely bright. Together these nine stars outshine the Sun by a factor of 30 million.

The left side of this collage shows the central part of the young star cluster R136 as it can be seen in the ultraviolet. Due to the high-resolution of Hubble in the ultraviolet the individual stars in this dense cluster can be resolved and studied. The right side shows a pseudo-image, created from the UV spectra collected with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). These spectra have been used by scientists to determine the properties of the stars in R136. The boundary of the 17 slit locations is outlined in white in the left image. The long-slit data from the spectrograph have been compressed to the width of the slits and stacked to create a pseudo-image. This allows the slit locations to be matched to stars in the left image. Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, K.A. Bostroem (STScI/UC Davis)

The scientists were also able to investigate outflows from these behemoths, which are most readily studied in the ultraviolet. They eject up to an Earth mass of material per month at a speed approaching one percent of the speed of light, resulting in extreme weight loss throughout their brief lives.

"The ability to distinguish ultraviolet light from such an exceptionally crowded region into its component parts, resolving the signatures of individual stars, was only made possible with the instruments aboard Hubble," explains Paul Crowther from the University of Sheffield, UK, and lead author of the study. "Together with my colleagues, I would like to acknowledge the invaluable work done by astronauts during Hubble's last servicing mission: they restored STIS and put their own lives at risk for the sake of future science!"

In 2010 Crowther and his collaborators showed the existence of four stars within R136, each with over 150 times the mass of the Sun. At that time the extreme properties of these stars came as a surprise as they exceeded the upper-mass limit for stars that was generally accepted at that time. Now, this new census has shown that there are five more stars with more than 100 solar masses in R136. The results gathered from R136 and from other clusters also raise many new questions about the formation of massive stars as the origin of these behemoths remains unclear.

Saida Caballero-Nieves, a co-author of the study, explains: "There have been suggestions that these monsters result from the merger of less extreme stars in close binary systems. From what we know about the frequency of massive mergers, this scenario can't account for all the really massive stars that we see in R136, so it would appear that such stars can originate from the star formation process."

In order to find answers about the origin of these stars the team will continue to analyse the gathered datasets. An analysis of new optical STIS observations will also allow them to search for close binary systems in R136, which could produce binaries which would ultimately merge, producing gravitational waves.

"Once again, our work demonstrates that, despite being in orbit for over 25 years, there are some areas of science for which Hubble is still uniquely capable," concludes Crowther.

Explore further: 300 solar masses: Scientists find most massive star ever discovered (w/ Video)

More information: "The R136 Star Cluster Dissected with Hubble Space Telescope/STIS. I. Far-Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Census and the Origin of He II 1640 in Young Star Clusters," 2016 May 1, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society mnras.oxfordjournals.org/content/458/1/624

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16 comments

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sailor7760
4.3 / 5 (3) Mar 17, 2016
Hubble unveils Monster Stars. What, if any, effect will this discovery have on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram?
Tuxford
1.4 / 5 (11) Mar 17, 2016
The results gathered from R136 and from other clusters also raise many new questions about the formation of massive stars as the origin of these behemoths remains unclear.

"There have been suggestions that these monsters result from the merger of less extreme stars in close binary systems. From what we know about the frequency of massive mergers, this scenario can't account for all the really massive stars that we see in R136, so it would appear that such stars can originate from the star formation process."

Again, with such massive outflows, the only possibility is that they grow naturally from within! Think about it Holmes!

This again demonstrates that the math fairies physics models are wrong. In SQK, growth from within is accelerated in more massive stars, and in regions of space crowded with mass, such as these clusters. LaViolette's model fits so many recent unexpected observations that it must be considered soon. Otherwise, astronomers deserve no credibility.
Tuxford
1 / 5 (8) Mar 17, 2016
"Because they are so massive, they are all close to their so-called Eddington limit, which is the maximum luminosity a star can have before it rips itself apart; and so they've got really powerful outflows. They are shedding mass at a fair rate of knots," the University of Sheffield's Paul Crowther told the BBC.

Little is known about stars of this mass — in fact, when the first four stars in R136 were discovered in 2010, researchers were shocked to find that stars could even get so massive. But probing more clusters like this one will help scientists puzzle out their origins.


NOT! Merger maniac scientists will always remain puzzled.

https://www.washi...e-stars/
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
4.9 / 5 (10) Mar 17, 2016
@sailor: Good question! It should show up as an empiriical tail at very high masses.

Then there is the star trajectory within the diagram, but I don't think they know very much about that yet. The same goes with star formation, which should be mergers (hard to form a single star that massive), but who knows?
FredJose
1.8 / 5 (10) Mar 17, 2016
The results gathered from R136 and from other clusters also raise many new questions about the formation of massive stars as the origin of these behemoths remains unclear.

It's not just the formation of the "behemoths" that remains unclear. It's also the very "formation" of the very first stars that is completely unexplained at this stage. There's a whole universe to explain, scientifically speaking, and yet so far no s acceptable and working theory exists which explains how stars can "form" and spring into existence all by themselves from a cloud of gas.
Furthermore, since these giants are using up their fuel as such an immense rate, they shouldn't last for more than a million years and hence they are now assumed to be "young" because there is no other explanation for their current existence in an assumed 13 billion year old universe.
Bigbangcon
1.7 / 5 (12) Mar 17, 2016
They gleefully make standard candle from white dwarfs (for Noble winning theories), which supposedly go supernova when they draw enough mass from a companion star to reach the Chandrasekhar limit of 1.4 solar mass and explodes. Here we have a bundle of giant stars in a cluster of a small satellite galaxy with hundred times more solar mass but lives on for billions of years, without turning into mystical "black holes"! - So much for "Big Bang" cosmology!
gkam
3.8 / 5 (10) Mar 18, 2016
BBCon, it has to do with density, and the big difference between the density of a White Dwarf and a massive star. The Dwarf is already at the limit of change due to density, and the star is not. The additional mass increases the density at that point to going nova.
Enthusiastic Fool
5 / 5 (8) Mar 18, 2016
Think about it Holmes!


Hey Watson, show me any interaction which can be replicated in a lab and violates conservation as you assert is occurring here. The Magic Mass of your DERPs doesn't make any sense and the fact that it takes mass/matter to make mass/matter is glaringly circular. Derpy Turtles all the way down?

@BBCrazy
In a single degenerate Type 1A there's not enough radiative pressure in the core of a white dwarf to hold it up against collapse beyond 1.4 solar masses. When enough mass is drawn in to start fusing at the surface it's like an extra shove toward collapse as you have gravity pulling in and radiative pressure from the surface reactions. In larger than 1.4 solar mass stars you have the mass over a larger area AND you have radiation from the core balancing against the force of G. As Gkam said, density but also the equilibrium of the forces at work.

Bigbangcon
1.5 / 5 (8) Mar 18, 2016
BBCon, it has to do with density, and the big difference between the density of a White Dwarf and a massive star. The Dwarf is already at the limit of change due to density, and the star is not. The additional mass increases the density at that point to going nova.


What stops the giant stars (that survives for billions of years) from developing a core of 1.4 solar mass and go supernova? Is force of gravity selective in these cases?

You fail to see the irony in my comment. There are many possible ways for a star to go supernova, showing similar light curves. How can you use supernova as a luminosity "standard candle" to make up grand and Nobel winning theories? Even in this website you will find many articles questioning the "standardness" of the "standard candle"!
gkam
3 / 5 (6) Mar 18, 2016
"What stops the giant stars (that survives for billions of years) from developing a core of 1.4 solar mass and go supernova? Is force of gravity selective in these cases?"
-----------------------------------

Its continuing fusion. To simplify it, when the fusion stops, the star collapses under its own mass.

This is not my field, and is the extent of my stuff.
Benni
2 / 5 (8) Mar 18, 2016
There must be a Cosmic Fairy Dust narrative in here somewhere.......c'mon all you DM Enthusiasts living here, dream it up, then look in a mirror & wonder why 80% of what you see isn't missing.
Phys1
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 18, 2016
The results gathered from R136 and from other clusters also raise many new questions about the formation of massive stars as the origin of these behemoths remains unclear.

It's not just the formation of the "behemoths" that remains unclear. It's also the very "formation" of the very first stars that is completely unexplained at this stage. There's a whole universe to explain, scientifically speaking, and yet so far no s acceptable and working theory exists which explains how stars can "form" and spring into existence all by themselves from a cloud of gas.
Furthermore, since these giants are using up their fuel as such an immense rate, they shouldn't last for more than a million years and hence they are now assumed to be "young" because there is no other explanation for their current existence in an assumed 13 billion year old universe.

Go back to reading the bible, you don't know anything about astronomy.
Steelwolf
4 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2016
I wonder...Just as a theory, but considering what we know of giant stars like this (very little so far, so theories are almost all we have) the supergiants run a very fast lifespan before going at least Nova, if not some form of supernova and since these stars are so closely packed, there is likely to be a chain reaction of some sort. Either it will be enough to cause the others to nova/supernova in a sympathetic explosion like event, or perhaps the shock would be enough to disrupt and even disperse and 'quench' at least the outer shells of these giant stars, leaving huge planetary nebulae and much gas stripped from these surrounding stars. Is it possible that the cores of the stars survive to give either a longer, slower life to those stars, and more gas for newer generations, or perhaps the giant stars are formed around such already large, quenched cores from the resulting thick fields of debris?
cantdrive85
2 / 5 (4) Mar 19, 2016
Just another failed guess as far as star formation and "life cycle". There seems to be no end to the continuous stream of bad news for the standard "theory". Oddly, it in no way stems the religiosity of those who kneel at the alter of the astrophysical pseudosciences.
Protoplasmix
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 19, 2016
Just another failed guess as far as star formation and "life cycle".
So what's stopping you from providing a successful guess? What holds 100 suns worth of positively charged protons together?

Right in the abstract it's stated, "A complete Hertzprung-Russell diagram for the most massive O stars in R136 is provided, from which we obtain a cluster age of 1.5 (+0.3,-0.7) Myr." So surprise yes, failure no – unless your remark was self-referential, in which case keep guessing.
Tuxford
1 / 5 (1) Mar 24, 2016
Think about it Holmes!

Hey Watson, show me any interaction which can be replicated in a lab and violates conservation as you assert is occurring here. The Magic Mass of your DERPs doesn't make any sense and the fact that it takes mass/matter to make mass/matter is glaringly circular. Derpy Turtles all the way down?

Nonsense. You can't understand. Give it up. It does not take matter to make matter. It takes the different type (virtual) subcomponents too small to detect to start to combine and begin a transformation reaction (like lighting a wildfire) that propagates through the sea of subcomponents to make a particle (the moving fire) of matter that we can observe. That we can't detect the subcomponents is simply a condition of our existence.

So what exactly is the smallest component of 3D matter actually composed of anyway?? Must be of something even smaller that we cannot observe directly with our bigger hammers. Only logical since we live in 3D world.

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