Astronomers Witness Birth of the Milky Way's Most Massive Star

Posted on July 10, 2013

Astronomers using the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array) telescope in Chile say they have witnessed the birth of the Milky Way's most massive star. The star is about 10,000 light-years from Earth. It is 500 times the mass of the Sun. The astronomers say in a release that it is the largest star ever seen in our galaxy. An artist's impression (David A. Hardy) of the developing star/cloud system is pictured above.

Dr. Nicolas Peretto from Cardiff University is the leader author of the paper published in Astronomy & Astrophysics. Dr. Peretto says, "The remarkable observations from ALMA allowed us to get the first really in-depth look at what was going on within this cloud. We wanted to see how monster stars form and grow, and we certainly achieved our aim. One of the sources we have found is an absolute giant - the largest protostellar core ever spotted in the Milky Way! Even though we already believed that the region was a good candidate for being a massive star-forming cloud, we were not expecting to find such a massive embryonic star at its centre. This cloud is expected to form at least one star 100 times more massive than the Sun and up to a million times brighter. Only about one in 10,000 of all the stars in the Milky Way reach that kind of mass."

Co-author Professor Gary Fuller, from The University of Manchester, says, "Not only are these stars rare, but their births are extremely rapid and childhood short, so finding such a massive object so early in its evolution in our Galaxy is a spectacular result. Our observations reveal in superb detail the filamentary network of dust and gas flowing into the central compact region of the cloud and strongly support the theory of global collapse for the formation of massive stars."