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Huge Yellow Star Found With Another Star On Its Surface

Huge Yellow Star Found With Another Star On Its Surface

There are somewhere around 300 billion stars in our galaxy, so if the discovery of a single star is enough to make headlines, you better believe it's an impressive one.

Scientists at the European Southern Observatory, or ESO, say a yellow hypergiant in the constellation Centaurus is the largest yellow star ever discovered, and an easy contender for the top 10 largest stars of any kind. This is an actual photograph of it. (Via ESO / Digitized Sky Survey 2)

Yellow hypergiants are one of the rarest kinds of star, with only around a dozen ever discovered. That's because they're thought to be undergoing a radical change from red to blue, and the process doesn't take very long. (ViaESO / Nick Risinger / Digitized Sky Survey 2)

The star was already known to be a yellow hypergiant, but astronomers weren't sure how big it was. They used the Very Large Telescope Array in northern Chile to take a closer look. (Via ESO)

Ok, so rather than throw a bunch of numbers at you, here are a couple of the science media's best comparisons to help you understand what the researchers found.

It's 1300 times the diameter of our sun. New Scientist crunched the numbers and found, "That means it would engulf all the planets between Mercury and Jupiter if placed at the centre of our solar system."

It's 12,000 light-years away, which is pretty far, but Discover Magazine points out "It's also about a million times brighter than our sun" meaning "It's bright enough that you could still spot it with the naked eye under ideal conditions." As far as we can tell, that makes it one of the most distant individual stars you can see in the night sky.

It's also getting bigger. Even though the star is already nearly twice as big as astronomers thought yellow hypergiants could get, a look back at older data found it's actually grown over the last 40 years. And that's not the only surprise.

The huge star has a tiny twin! The pair make up a binary system, and the lead researcher says "The two stars are so close that they touch and the whole system resembles a gigantic peanut." Yes, the two stars physically touch. (Via ESO)

So there are a number of reasons why this discovery is such an oddity. Studying the unique system will hopefully give scientists more insight into how hypergiants age and evolve, as well as, you know, the effects of having a star on top of another star.

Join the discussion

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grizzelbuck March 13 2014 at 6:20 PM

Extremely interesting. Love this stuff.

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ChingOW Mango March 13 2014 at 5:20 PM

It's amazing how we think we know everything - and then something beautiful and wonderful like this is discovered. I always wonder - what else are we missing.

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1 reply
hynotman ChingOW Mango March 13 2014 at 8:50 PM

What YOU are missing is that NO ONE (of any intelligence) EVER said or thought "we know everything".

Now GODDITES... THEY think they know everything - from what was written in a bronze age anthology of myths, lies and FABLES!!

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jim March 13 2014 at 7:17 PM

Those numbers are staggering. Just think of all the THINGS out there that are even more unbelievable than that , that we don't know about. The billions of light years in all directions that we can't see thru telescopes in the distant past & the far future that could be mind boggling. Think also of the possible life forms that we could encounter, various forms , intellect, physical capabilities & so much more. Does life exist outside of our own planet, a definite YES & if they are from our past, they are most assuredly way ahead of us in the intellectual dept. If you don't believe in other life forms in the hundreds of billions, maybe trillions of planets out there, YOU MY FRIEND ARE AN IDIOT w/ no hope for redemption at all.

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1 reply
s0nnymock jim March 13 2014 at 8:29 PM

Im confused my friend. The article isn't about discovering a colony of spacemen, its about discovering another big star in the sky. That my friend is not news BTW the next time you "encounter, various forms, intellect, physical capabilities & so much more", make sure you write about it on AOL, maybe they'll give you some more LSD or some mushrooms or something.

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2 replies
STEPHAN s0nnymock March 14 2014 at 12:34 AM

ur a dick sonny, we all know what he is talking about, and you are an idiot

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thomcit s0nnymock March 14 2014 at 3:41 AM

Correction: This isn't news to those who lack the imagination and intelligence required to understand the significance of this discovery. You obviously fall into that category. This is one topic that is truly "over your head".

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kcarthey March 13 2014 at 8:55 PM

Upon first seeing the headline, I expected it to be about an Asian movie star having an illicit relationship.

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bmitch3773 March 13 2014 at 9:28 PM

This article is fascinating and very interesting to people who are interested in this sort of thing . Very interesting stellar phenomenon. Thanks for reporting this story.

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1 reply
harleydesigns bmitch3773 March 13 2014 at 9:56 PM

opens up a whole slew of questions, doesn't it? I think we're only just beginning to find all the wonders of the galaxy...just OUR galaxy, and there are millions more, to boot...

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rattpoison55 March 13 2014 at 7:07 PM

Superman gets his powers from our yellow sun, so if he were in this star system, he'd be 1300 times more powerful?

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2 replies
hynotman rattpoison55 March 13 2014 at 8:47 PM

Maybe so, but with gravity being 1300 times more powerful it should equal out to "plain old Superman"...

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dusty754 rattpoison55 March 13 2014 at 8:50 PM

Holy cow. Think of what would happen if he sneezed? Or farted

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pattygraves March 13 2014 at 12:44 PM

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH !!!! This is fascinating and rewarding. I'M sick and tired of
gloom, doom and despair, twerking and Beonce?

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garymeriden1 March 14 2014 at 12:39 AM


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joeljoey5160 March 13 2014 at 11:07 PM

What SPF do I need to not get sunburn?

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thomcit March 14 2014 at 1:20 AM

It's truly amazing to know that there are stars, galaxies etc. that we know nothing about simply because the light hasn't reached us, yet. We know that light travels at approximately 186,000 miles per second. With our current technology, we've roughly estimated that the "Big Bang" occurred approximately 13.5 Billion years ago. As for calculating the distance, try counting the zeroes contained in that number. Of course, when the "Singularity" exploded, it exploded in all directions. And, considering the fact that the galaxies are actually moving away at increasing speeds, as determined by the Doppler Effect (red shift), it is truly mind-boggling (yet, incredibly fascinating). Acceleration requires force. The acceleration can't be explained by the "Big Bang". It's due to some unknown force. I guess that's why "Dark Energy" is probably the biggest question facing cosmologists, today. But remember, when Einstein's theorized that light and space can actually bend due to gravity, many physicists scoffed at the idea. Einstein actually predicted how much the light would bend. It was a very small yet, exacting number. When his theory was finally proven correct by astronomers (who had to take the photographs during a Total Solar Eclipse and then make the precise calculations of the position of specific stars), even scientific skeptics couldn't rationally deny the evidence. I wonder when the next genius (like Newton, then Einstein) will discover the unifying theory that ties the quantum universe to the macro-universe. Of course, it we don't encourage and foster that intellectual curiosity in our children, and continue to regress back to the dark ages, it might take awhile.

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1 reply
Slipknot eclipse thomcit March 14 2014 at 1:40 AM

Also think about worm holes or otherwise known as an Einstein-Rosen Bridge. It is also currently just considered a theory, but so many laws of physics support their existence.

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1 reply
thomcit Slipknot eclipse March 14 2014 at 2:26 AM

Wow, we're on the same wavelength (so to speak). It's always refreshing to read an intelligent comment. I'm currently reading a book authored by Michio Kaku called "Hyperspace" (given to me as a Christmas present). It was written for the layperson. As a physician, with only a year of General Physics in college, but a fairly thorough grounding in science, it's a still a very challenging yet, enjoyable read. I'll read a few pages, get confused, go back to an earlier section of the book, read the info (again), look at the diagrams and return to the current topic. He discusses the Einstein-Rosen Bridge and you're correct. Thus far, in the book, it appears that it does not violate any known laws of physics. Though the book was written in 1994, it's still very relevant. And, it still does not violate any known laws. Kaku makes a convincing argument that equations and theorems become simpler as the number of dimensions increase. Einstein elegant theories were born because, via his "thought experiments", he was able to think "outside the box". Once he deemed space/time as separate dimensions, his solutions were indeed elegant. Kaku is making the argument that there are 10 dimensions. Apparently, 10 is still the current magic number. And, of course, since humans can only intuitively detect three dimensions (height, width, breadth), it's impossible for us to picture other dimensions. But, Kaku is a strong advocate of worm holes and string theory. Carl Sagan also believed they exist. And, so far, I haven't learned that they have been discarded. If anything, the evidence seems to support it (it certainly doesn't contradict it, as far as I know). You probably know much more about this subject then I do. But, it's still utterly fascinating.

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