Hubble Unveiled Monster Stars

Astronomers aided by the unique ultraviolet capabilities of NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope identified 9 monster stars with the masses over 100x the mass of the sun in star cluster R136. It makes it the largest sample of the very colossal stars identified to date.

The results that will be published in monthly notices of Royal Astronomical Society, raised many new questions about the creation of these gigantic stars.

International teams of scientists using NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope finally succeed to dissect this young star cluster R136 in the ultraviolet light for the very first time.

R136 is only a few light-years across & is situated in Tarantula Nebula within Large Magellanic Cloud, that is about 170,000 light-years away. The young cluster hosts many extremely hot, massive & and luminous stars whose energy is radiated in the ultraviolet range of its light spectrum. This is why scientists investigated the ultraviolet emission of cluster.

R136 observed with WFC3

In 2010 Crowther along with his collaborators revealed the existence of 4 stars within R136, each of them with over 150x the mass of the sun. Now, the new census showed that there are 5 more stars with over 100 solar masses in R136.

Saida Caballero-Nieves, who is the co-author of the study, elaborated, “There have been suggestions that these monsters result from merger of less extreme stars in close binary systems. From what we know about frequency of massive mergers, this scenario cannot account for all the really massive stars that we see in R136, so it’d appear that such stars can originate from the star formation process.”

To find answers about the source of these stars the team will continue to analyze the gathered datasets. An analysis of the new optical STIS observations from the Hubble would allow them to look for the close binary systems in R136. Since the massive stars burn out relatively quickly & can become black holes, such binary pairs could harvest the massive black hole binaries that would ultimately merge, and producing the 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,” concluded Crowther.