Hubble captures outstanding views of mammoth stars

Nov 25, 2008
The image shows a pair of colossal stars, WR 25 and Tr16-244, located within the open cluster Trumpler 16. This cluster is embedded within the Carina Nebula, an immense cauldron of gas and dust that lies approximately 7500 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Carina, the Keel. WR 25 is the brightest, situated near the centre of the image. The neighbouring Tr16-244 is the third brightest, just to the upper left of WR 25. The second brightest, to the left of WR 25, is a low mass star located much closer to the Earth than the Carina Nebula. Credit: NASA, ESA and Jesús Maíz Apellániz (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain)

(PhysOrg.com) -- The image shows a pair of colossal stars, WR 25 and Tr16-244, located within the open cluster Trumpler 16. This cluster is embedded within the Carina Nebula, an immense cauldron of gas and dust that lies approximately 7500 light-years from Earth. The Carina Nebula contains several ultra-hot stars, including these two star systems and the famous blue star Eta Carinae, which has the highest luminosity yet confirmed.

As well as producing incredible amounts of heat, these stars are also very bright, emitting most of their radiation in the ultraviolet and appearing blue in colour. They are so powerful that they burn through their hydrogen fuel source faster than other types of stars, leading to a "live fast, die young" lifestyle.

WR 25 is the brightest, situated near the centre of the image. The neighbouring Tr16-244 is the third brightest, just to the upper left of WR 25. The second brightest, to the left of WR 25, is a low mass star located much closer to the Earth than the Carina Nebula. Stars like WR 25 and Tr16-244 are relatively rare compared to other, cooler types. They interest astronomers because they are associated with star-forming nebulae, and influence the structure and evolution of galaxies.

WR 25 is likely to be the most massive and interesting of the two. Its true nature was revealed two years ago when an international group of astronomers led by Roberto Gamen, then at the Universidad de La Serena in Chile, discovered that it is composed of at least two stars. The more massive is a Wolf-Rayet star and may weigh more than 50 times the mass of our Sun. It is losing mass rapidly through powerful stellar winds that have expelled the majority of its outermost hydrogen-rich layers, while its more mundane binary companion is probably about half as massive as the Wolf-Rayet star, and orbits around it once every 208 days.

Massive stars are usually formed in compact clusters. Often the individual stars are so physically close to each other that it is very difficult to resolve them in telescopes as separate objects. These Hubble observations have revealed that the Tr16-244 system is actually a triple star. Two of the stars are so close to each other that they look like a single object, but Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys shows them as two. The third star takes tens or hundreds of thousands of years to orbit the other two. The brightness and proximity of the components of such massive double and triple stars makes it particularly challenging to discover the properties of massive stars.

WR 25 and Tr16-244 are the likely sources of radiation that is causing a giant gas globule within the Carina Nebula to slowly evaporate away into space, while possibly inducing the formation of new stars within it . The radiation is also thought to be responsible for the globule's interesting shape, prominently featured in earlier Hubble images, which looks like a hand with a "defiant" finger pointing towards WR 25 and Tr16-244.

Provided by Hubble Information Centre

Explore further: What's the brightest star in the sky, past and future?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Telescopes give shape to furious black hole winds

Feb 19, 2015

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and ESA's (European Space Agency) XMM-Newton telescope are showing that fierce winds from a supermassive black hole blow outward in all directions—a ...

Stars akin to the Sun also explode when they die

Feb 16, 2015

The birth of planetary nebulae, resulting from the death of low and intermediate mass stars, is usually thought of as a slow process, in contrast with the intense supernovae that massive stars produce. But ...

Mismatched twin stars spotted in the delivery room

Feb 12, 2015

The majority of stars in our galaxy come in pairs. In particular, the most massive stars usually have a companion. These fraternal twins tend to be somewhat equal partners when it comes to mass - but not ...

Recommended for you

Could the Milky Way become a quasar?

2 hours ago

A quasar is what you get when a supermassive black hole is actively feeding on material at the core of a galaxy. The region around the black hole gets really hot and blasts out radiation that we can see billions ...

Galactic dinosaurs not extinct

3 hours ago

One of the biggest mysteries in galaxy evolution is the fate of the compact massive galaxies that roamed the early Universe.

Stars found forming at Milky Way's outer edge

10 hours ago

Brazilian astronomers said Friday they had found two star clusters forming in a remote part of our Milky Way galaxy where such a thing was previously thought impossible.

New insight found in black hole collisions

Feb 26, 2015

New research by an astrophysicist at The University of Texas at Dallas provides revelations about the most energetic event in the universe—the merging of two spinning, orbiting black holes into a much larger ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Honor
5 / 5 (1) Nov 25, 2008
where can i get the high res version for my desk top?
hudres
3.5 / 5 (2) Nov 25, 2008
Look on tha NASA web site. They have something like the "Pick of the Day" Should be there
tkjtkj
5 / 5 (2) Nov 26, 2008
This is a truly well-written
article .. and fun to read!

AND it has pics ...where pics
are important! If this represents
a new 'pic if its important'
philosophy of physorg, then
congratulations on waking up!
and thanks1
yyz
3 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2008
@ Honor, try the European Space Agency's HST homepage at http://www.spacetelescope.org/ for a first look. Specifically http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/html/heic0822.html has many different views (and file sizes) of this object.I personally like the wider-angle 57Mb color image available there!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.