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Hubble Space Telescope Pinpoints 'Monster' Stars

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A 2009 image from the Hubble shows the same star cluster. Here's how the space agency described it then: "The brilliant stars are carving deep cavities in the surrounding material by unleashing a torrent of ultraviolet light, and hurricane-force stellar
NASA, ESA, and F. Paresce (INAF-IASF, Bologna, Italy), R. O'Connell (University of Virginia, Charlottesville), and the Wide Field Camera 3 Science Oversight Committee
A 2009 image from the Hubble shows the same star cluster. Here's how the space agency described it then: "The brilliant stars are carving deep cavities in the surrounding material by unleashing a torrent of ultraviolet light, and hurricane-force stellar winds (streams of charged particles), which are etching away the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud in which the stars were born."

Scientists now know a little more about a young star cluster in the Tarantula Nebula, within the Large Magellanic Cloud, approximately 170,000 light-years from Earth.

Specifically, they've identified nine "monster stars" as the Hubble Space Telescope's press release puts it, more than 100 times the mass of our Sun.

The star cluster R136 is home to "many extremely massive, hot and luminous stars," the statement continues.

In order to tease apart the bright light from the closely-clustered stars, scientists combined images from a camera on the Hubble Space Telescope with data about ultraviolet light from an imaging spectograph on the telescope.

They found the nine enormous stars, which together are brighter than the sun by a factor of 30 million to one.

But the largest star in R136, which was identified several years ago, still reigns supreme: it's more than 250 times as large as the sun, and is the most massive star ever detected.

More precise data about the stars in the cluster could help researchers explore the origins of extremely massive stars.

The Hubble took a striking image of the same star cluster back in 2009, noting the presence of the "diamond-like icy blue stars" that are the brightest and largest in the cluster.

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At the time, the space agency also provided a peak into the stars' futures: "These hefty stars are destined to pop off, like a string of firecrackers, as supernovas in a few million years."

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