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Discovery of a Stellar Behemoth in Westerhout 49

28 Jul 2014, 04:00 UTC
Discovery of a Stellar Behemoth in Westerhout 49 ESO/M. Kornmesser
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Very massive stars with masses exceeding ~100 times the Sun’s mass are incredibly rare. Nevertheless, these stars have strong influence on their environment through their powerful winds and prodigious amounts of ionizing radiation. The existence of very massive stars with reported masses of up to ~300 times the Sun’s mass indicate that there may not be a ‘real’ upper mass limit for very massive stars. These very massive stars are found in massive star-forming clusters such as NGC 3603, the Arches cluster and R136 in the Large Magellanic Cloud.Artist’s impression of the Sun in comparison to R136a1 - a very massive star with an estimated ~300 times the Sun’s mass at birth. Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser.A study by Shiwei Wu et al. (2014) presents the spectroscopic identification of a very massive star in the heart of the star-forming region Westerhout 49, hereafter, referred to as W49. The central cluster of W49 consists of dozens of massive OB-type stars. Intervening interstellar dust greatly obscures the massive stars in W49. As a result, these stars can only be observed in the near-infrared waveband. Referred to as W49 nr1, this very massive star resides in the heart of W49. It was spectroscopically identified ...

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