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Brightest star in Galaxy has competition

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  • derhexer@aol.com
    URL to an interesting article in Science Daily News _http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080715131623.htm_
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 16, 2008
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      URL to an interesting article in Science Daily News

      I wonder how close a star could be to one of these monsters before the
      radiation would make it impossible for life to form - 10 ly, 100ly? I know that
      when it blows up it will sterilize nearby systems, but what about during its
      normal lifespan?

      First few paragraphs
      ScienceDaily (July 15, 2008) — A contender for the title of brightest star
      in our Milky Way galaxy has been unearthed in the dusty metropolis of the
      galaxy's center.

      See also:
      _Space & Time_ (http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/space_time/)
      * _Stars_ (http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/space_time/stars/)
      * _Nebulae_ (http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/space_time/nebulae/)
      * _Astronomy_ (http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/space_time/astronomy/)

      * _Galaxies_ (http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/space_time/galaxies/)
      * _Extrasolar Planets_
      * _Astrophysics_
      _Reference_ (http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/)
      * _Supergiant_ (http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/s/supergiant.htm)

      * _Star cluster_
      * _Orion Nebula_
      * _Cepheid variable_

      Nicknamed the "Peony nebula star," the bright stellar bulb was revealed by
      NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and other ground-based telescopes. It blazes
      with the light of an estimated 3.2 million suns.
      The reigning "brightest star" champion is Eta Carina, with a whopping solar
      wattage of 4.7 million suns. But according to astronomers, it's hard to pin
      down an exact brightness, or luminosity, for these scorching stars, so they
      could potentially shine with a similar amount of light.
      "The Peony nebula star is a fascinating creature. It appears to be the
      second-brightest star that we now know of in the galaxy, and it's located deep
      into the galaxy's center," said Lidia Oskinova of Potsdam University in Germany.
      "There are probably other stars just as bright if not brighter in our galaxy
      that remain hidden from view." Oskinova is principal investigator for the
      research and second author of a paper appearing in a future issue of the journal
      Astronomy and Astrophysics.
      Scientists already knew about the Peony nebula star, but because of its
      sheltered location in the dusty central hub of our galaxy, its extreme luminosity
      was not revealed until now. Spitzer's dust-piercing infrared eyes can see
      straight into the heart of our galaxy, into regions impenetrable by visible
      light. Likewise, infrared data from the European Southern Observatory's New
      Technology Telescope in Chile were integral in calculating the Peony nebula
      star's luminosity.
      "Infrared astronomy opens extraordinary views into the environment of the
      central region of our galaxy," said Oskinova.
      The brightest stars in the universe are also the biggest. Astronomers
      estimate the Peony nebula star kicked off its life with a hefty mass of roughly 150
      to 200 times that of our sun. Stars this massive are rare and puzzle
      astronomers because they push the limits required for stars to form. Theory predicts
      that if a star starts out too massive, it can't hold itself together and
      must break into a double or multiple stars instead.
      Not only is the Peony nebula star hefty, it also has a wide girth. It is a
      type of giant blue star called a Wolf-Rayet star, with a diameter roughly 100
      times that of our sun. That means this star, if placed where our sun is, would
      extend out to about the orbit of Mercury.
      With so much mass, the star barely keeps itself together. It sheds an
      enormous amount of stellar matter in the form of strong winds over its relatively
      short lifetime of a few million years. This matter is pushed so hard by strong
      radiation from the star that the winds speed up to about 1.6 million
      kilometers per hour (one million miles per hour) in only a few hours.
      Ultimately, the Peony nebula star will blow up in a fantastic explosion of
      cosmic proportions called a supernova. In fact, Oskinova and her colleagues say
      that the star is ripe for exploding soon, which in astronomical terms mean
      anytime from now to millions of years from now.
      "When this star blows up, it will evaporate any planets orbiting stars in the
      vicinity," said Oskinova. "Farther out from the star, the explosion could
      actually trigger the birth of new stars."
      In addition to the star itself, the astronomers noted a cloud of dust and
      gas, called a nebula, surrounding the star. The team nicknamed this cloud the
      Peony nebula because it resembles the ornate flower.
      "The nebula was probably created from the spray of dust leaking off the
      massive Peony nebula star," said Andreas Barniske of Potsdam University, lead
      author of the study."

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