Nine monstrous stars have been discovered in a distant star cluster, which has been given the name R136, by the Hubble Space Telescope. The cluster is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud in the Tarantula Nebula, approximately 170,000 light years away from Earth.
They were found using the ultraviolet light spectrum, and NASA notes this is the first time the star cluster has ever been examined in ultraviolet up close. The findings are published in detail in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Astronomers believe that each of the individual stars can be measured at more than 100 solar masses of our Sun, which put these stars at among some of the largest ever found.
“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, U.K., 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!”
Still, the record remains with R136a1, which is the largest star ever discovered to date at 250 solar masses, and is also located inside of this specific star cluster. This star cluster includes not only nine massive measuring at over 100 solar masses, but also dozens of smaller stars that have more than 50 solar masses.
NASA notes that the cluster of super stars is so bright that it out-shines our own Sun by up to 30 million times, so if you thought our lone Sun was bright, you’d be amazed what the universe has for a surprise just waiting to be discovered out there.
The discovery of these giant stars continues to raise questions about the under-documented formation of super stars. Large stars like these aren’t entirely common, and scientists want to know what causes stars to get so massive. Obviously, conditions surrounding the birth of these monsters wouldn’t be the same as those around smaller stars.
Although Hubble is still kicking with useful data and discoveries despite being in space for more than tow decades, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and WFIRST Space Telescope are both on schedule to launch into space within the next few years. These telescopes offer higher ranges of view and larger primary mirrors that will allow astronomers to pierce deeper into space and unravel even more mysteries of our universe.