A rare specimen of massive stars that live fast and die young has been photographed by a European observatory in Chile.
The blazing hot star is called WR 22 and is shedding its atmosphere many millions of times faster than our own sun in outward blasts that unleash powerful radiation emissions. [Photo of the huge star.]
It has about 70 times the mass of the sun, and its brightness allows Earth observers to spot its brilliance with the unaided eye from over 5,000 light-years away. A light-year is about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion km), the distance light travels in a year.
WR 22 sits in a southern configuration of stars, the Carina Constellation, which represents the keel of Jason's ship Argo in Greek mythology. It is one of many incredibly bright stars in the Carina Nebula (also known as NGC 3372), a huge region of star formation in the southern Milky Way galaxy.
The astronomical sighting came from European Southern Observatory?s La Silla Observatory. Its colorful image reflects the interactions between the intense ultraviolet radiation coming from hot massive stars such as WR 22 and vast gas clouds composed mostly of hydrogen.
The upper-left image also contains the star Eta Carinae, just 7,500 light-years away and more than 100 times the mass of our sun. Astronomers expect such huge stars to lose their entire hydrogen envelopes before they go out with a supernova bang.
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