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Biggest monster star! And the heaviest stars
The biggest monster star
There are very heavy stars. And there are gigantic stars. In terms of sheer size, the star UY Scuti is – as far as we know – the biggest star known. It’s only about 7 to 10 times the sun’s mass, but has a radius more than 1,700 greater than the sun.
While there is currently no competition for UY Scuti as the largest star, there is uncertainty about which star is the most massive star. All of the contenders are nearly twice as massive as what astronomers thought was possible.
Many sources continue to list R136a1 as the heaviest star known at 250 solar masses. However, a recent study in 2022 puts its mass between 170 and 230 times more massive than our sun. Thus, that enables two other stars to edge it out of the top spot on the massive star list. However, that list is dated 2016 and states that the masses listed on it are uncertain.
So, currently topping the massive star list at 250 solar masses is Westerhout 49-2. However, its mass may vary by as much as 120 solar masses – plus or minus – from that figure.
Another contender for the most massive star is BAT99-98. It’s estimated to be about 226 solar masses. And since its mass isn’t listed with a plus or minus range, it could easily be the most massive star.
Of course, regardless of which one tops the massive star list, all of them are very massive stars!
Read more about these monster stars below …
UY Scuti is just plain big
UY Scuti is located some 9,500 light-years away. And it’s the biggest star known, in terms of sheer physical size. The fact is that – for stars – mass and physical size don’t always go hand in hand. Consider that great mass means stronger gravity. And stronger gravity means a greater inward pull for a star. So being super massive might not correlate to being super big.
UY Scuti has a relatively modest mass. It’s only about 7 to 10 times more massive than our sun. But its radius is about 1,700 times greater than the radius of our sun. That would make this star nearly 8 astronomical units across. That’s eight times 93 million miles (150 million km), the distance between our Earth and sun. So, this single star is so large that its outer surface would extend far beyond the orbit of the planet Jupiter (which lies about five times farther from the sun than Earth).
Or look at it this way. More than a million Earths could fit inside the sun. But some 5 billion suns could fit inside a sphere the size of UY Scuti.
The other big stars
Who are the other candidates for the biggest star? They would include NML Cygni, whose estimated distance is about 5,300 light-years and whose radius is between 1,183 and 2,770 times greater than that of our sun. A recent study of this star suggested that it’s an unusual hypergiant star cocooned within a nebula and severely obscured by dust. So we don’t know its size exactly, and the upper part of the range would make it larger than UY Scuti.
Another hypergiant star is WOH G64, which is in the Large Magellanic Cloud and thus located at about 160,000 light-years from Earth. At an estimated 1,540 times the sun’s radius, this star is thought to be the largest star in the Large Magellanic Cloud in terms of sheer physical size. And, again, we’re talking size here, not mass. This star is only about 25 times the sun’s mass.
The heaviest stars
Currently topping the most massive star list at 250 solar masses is Westerhout 49-2. However, its mass may vary by as much as 120 solar masses – plus or minus – from that figure. It’s located 36,200 light-years away in the constellation of Aquila the Eagle. And it’s over 4 million times more luminous than our sun, with a surface temperature of 63,440 degrees F (35,226 C). However, it’s important to note, it could be a binary star system, so its estimated mass could be from a combination of two stars.
Second on the most massive star list is BAT99-98. It’s located 165,000 light-years distant in the Large Magellanic Cloud near the R136 star cluster. It’s estimated to be about 226 solar masses and is a Wolf-Rayet star. Also, it’s about 5 million times more luminous than our sun with a surface temperature of 80,540 degrees F (44,726 C).
Finally, the former champion, now third on the list, is R136a1. It’s located in the Large Magellanic Cloud at about 163,000 light-years away. R136a1 is what’s known as a Wolf–Rayet star. It has a mass between 170 and 230 times the mass of the sun. Its surface temperature is over 100,000 degrees F (55,538 degrees C). And it’s almost 5 million times more luminous than our sun
In addition to being on the massive star list, all three of these stars are among the most luminous stars.
How the most massive stars form
For decades, theories have suggested that no stars can be born by ordinary processes above 150 solar masses. So how did these stars grow so large? And why aren’t monster stars scattered throughout space?
One idea is that supermassive stars like R136a1 form through mergers of multiple stars. In 2012, astronomers at the University of Bonn suggested that the ultramassive stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud – such as R136a1 – were created when lighter stars in tight double-star systems merged.
Still, double-star systems are common. So why don’t we see more super-sized stars? The astronomers in Bonn say it’s because these stars formed under special conditions in a densely packed star cluster. And in a closely packed star cluster, double stars are more likely to encounter each other and merge.
But if these ultramassive stars form in this way, why don’t we see more of them? After all, multiple star systems are common throughout space, while monster stars are few and far between.
The answer may be that monster stars don’t live very long. They evolve very quickly in contrast to less massive stars like our sun. They end their lives in violent supernova explosions.
Imagine how bright they’d be nearby
As you can see, there are extremely heavy stars … and there are simply gigantic stars. What makes a star big might be its mass or its physical size. And either way, it’s fun to imagine what it would be like to have one of these stars relatively close to us in space … say, the distance to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, only four light-years away.
At that distance, any of these stars would blaze in our night sky!
Bottom line: Stars are considered big based on their sheer physical size or their mass. In terms of sheer size, UY Scuti is the biggest known star. As for the most massive, currently Westerhout 49-2 tops the list, but different sources vary on which star they list as most massive.
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The end of the internal-combustion car: Why competition is vital to bringing about cleaner transport
Political back-and-forths bring up whether Europe is making any progress with the green transition
On 7 March 2023, just as the European Council was preparing to vote on a ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine cars in Europe from 2035, something went wrong: Germany, whose vote was essential for the measure to be approved and a coalition of six other European countries blocked the vote on the text, pushing the legislation back indefinitely.
A few days later, the European Commission, representing all the member countries, unveiled its response to the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the Net-Zero Industry Act, a competitiveness plan based on accelerating the green transition.
Amid all the political back-and-forths, one would be forgiven for asking oneself whether Europe is making any progress with the green transition.
It would appear the European Union (EU) has become Janus, with a pro-transition face and a procrastinating face, just as a pro-competition face contrasts with a protectionist face. The consequence of such contradictions is a loss of credibility when it comes to achieving its objectives and a delay in the race toward ecological transition.
A lead to maintain
Yet the EU seemed well on the way to establishing itself as a world leader in the transition, with its dynamic green ecosystem made up of innovative businesses supported by the “European Climate Bank”, as the EIB (European Investment Bank) likes to call itself.
At the end of February, the EIB reaffirmed its intention to champion green initiatives by channelling the vast majority of its funds toward the transition, beyond the already honourable level of 60 per cent achieved by 2022.
The EU also seems to be particularly ahead of the game on green hydrogen, boasting a number of important projects of European interest (IPCEI), the world’s leading number of patents (ranking last January by the International Energy Agency) and an embryonic hydrogen bank.
You can find more infographics at Statista.
This position is confirmed by foreign investors who find themselves attracted to the bloc’s green policies and regulatory clout.
Take the latest Border Carbon Tax Mechanism (CBAM), which is set to place a carbon price on imports entering the European single market from non-EU countries from this autumn: It is a textbook example of how to take into account negative ecological impacts while respecting competition thanks to the price signal. The recent revaluation of the price of a tonne of CO2 above 100 euros suggests that it will be very effective indeed.
That’s if we don’t undermine it with exemptions and deferrals sine die, or disguised pollution subsidies such as France’s energy “tariff shield”). According to the IEA, Europe spent nearly 350 billion euros on such measures in 2022 — a record high.
To give businesses and investors the certainty that the EU won’t be going backwards, we need to set clear, consistent targets and stick to them. It is essential to anchor players’ expectations on a fixed and certain horizon so that markets can be challenged, competition can be triggered and private investment can flow.
Any form of renunciation by the EU will discourage players from speeding up the transition and will cause those who were ahead of schedule in reaching the 2035 horizon to backpedal.
Avoiding “the tragedy of the horizon”
To remain competitive, French carmaker Renault has focused its clean-car strategy on its electricity division and split its activities into five divisions — Ampere (clean vehiciles), Power (thermal and hybrid motors), Alpine (sport), Mobilize (new forms of mobility) and The Future Is Neutral (circular economy). Power is intended to be supported in part by the profits from the project “Horse”, which involves a joint venture with the Chinese carmaker Geely.
Stellantis — the parent company of Chrysler as well as European brands such as Peugeot, Citroën, Fiat and and Alfa Romeo — has also positioned itself in the premium segment of the clean-car market, alongside other players such as Tesla of the US and French energy giant TotalEnergies, which is equipping its service station network with recharging stations.
These moves demonstrate the decisive role of competition in developing a range of products and services in line with the imperatives of the energy transition.
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Open markets allow new players to join or withdraw on terms that suit them, thus fostering competition and innovation. This virtuous circle is essential to overcoming the technological frontier of transition — the most advanced level of research at a given time — and get a jump on tomorrow’s solutions.
In theory, an economy that’s open to competition leads to sophistication in the value proposition of offerings and to shared value for all: quality of service and lower prices to the benefit of demand greater returns on innovation and scale and attraction of scarce resources to the benefit of supply.
The longer the European Union postpones its objectives and gives in to protectionist pressures, the longer it will be locked into what former Canadian central banker Marc Carney has called the tragedy of the horizon and so the more it will fall behind its rivals.
The EU would benefit from remaining consistent with its founding principle of competition and its four fundamental freedoms (movement of goods, capital, services and people) to attract the capital needed for the transition and the infrastructure essential for its spread (such as electric charging stations) and acceptability.
At a time when the United States has strayed into protectionism, the EU must stand firm on its commitments and remain faithful to competition, the virtues of which will accelerate the transition and its spread with accessible solutions.
It’s time to move on from “greenwishing”, as the American economist Nouriel Roubini called it ironically, to green-enacting thanks to a winning combination of competitiveness and attractiveness.
Anna Souakri, Affiliate Professor in Strategy/Innovation & Researcher at Square Management, ESCP Business School and Jean-Marc Daniel, Emeritus associate Professor, Law Economics & Humanities, ESCP Business School
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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