A rarespecimen of massive stars that live fast and die young has been photographed bya European observatory in Chile.
The blazinghot star is called WR 22 and is shedding its atmosphere many millions of timesfaster than our own sun in outward blasts that unleash powerful radiationemissions. [Photo of the huge star.]
It has about70 times the mass of the sun, and its brightness allows Earth observers to spotits brilliance with the unaided eye from over 5,000 light-years away. Alight-year is about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion km), the distance lighttravels in a year.
WR 22 sitsin a southern configuration of stars, the Carina Constellation, whichrepresents the keel of Jason's ship Argo in Greek mythology. It is one of many incredibly bright stars in the Carina Nebula (also known asNGC 3372), a huge region of star formation in the southern Milky Way galaxy.
The astronomical sighting came from European SouthernObservatory?s La Silla Observatory. Its colorful image reflects theinteractions between the intense ultraviolet radiation coming from hot massivestars such as WR 22 and vast gas clouds composed mostly of hydrogen.
The upper-leftimage also contains the star Eta Carinae, just 7,500 light-years away and morethan 100 times the mass of our sun. Astronomers expect such huge stars to losetheir entire hydrogen envelopes before they go out with a supernova bang.
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