The Death Throes of A Colossal Star, That Could Spawn New Life in the Universe

Jonathan Amos, BBC News

The death throes of one of the biggest stars known to science have been spied by Europe’s Herschel space telescope. The observatory, launched in May, has subjected VY Canis Majoris, to a detailed spectroscopic analysis.

It has allowed Herschel to identify the different types of molecules and atoms that swirl away from the star which is 20–25 times as massive as our Sun. VY Canis Majoris is some 4,500 light-years from Earth and it could be seen to explode as a supernova at any time.

It is colossal. If VY Canis Majoris were sited at the centre of our Solar System, its surface would extend out towards the orbit of Saturn. The star, in the constellation Canis Major, has been recorded by astronomers for at least 200 years.

It is what is called a red hypergiant — a highly evolved object that is exhausting its nuclear fuel.

Read More: BBC News

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  • Sum Gai

    I’m asking this out of ignorance, but if this star were to supernova, being only 4,500 light-years from us, would it pose any sort of threat to us in any way shape or form.

    I know that some have suspected that WR 104 could possibly pose a threat if it were to produce a gamma ray burst, it being 8,000 light-years from Earth, but i don’t know if the same goes for a supernova.

    I thinking Maybe since Canis is closer, there might some possibility of it perhaps doing some type of harm to us somehow.

    I’m also wondering, given the size of the star, whether or not the supernova would be more powerful than average.

    If anyone could answer any of these things it’d be great. Thanks in advance.

  • Sum Gai

    I'm asking this out of ignorance, but if this star were to supernova, being only 4,500 light-years from us, would it pose any sort of threat to us in any way shape or form.

    I know that some have suspected that WR 104 could possibly pose a threat if it were to produce a gamma ray burst, it being 8,000 light-years from Earth, but i don't know if the same goes for a supernova.

    I thinking Maybe since Canis is closer, there might some possibility of it perhaps doing some type of harm to us somehow.

    I'm also wondering, given the size of the star, whether or not the supernova would be more powerful than average.

    If anyone could answer any of these things it'd be great. Thanks in advance.