A cluster of stars recently photographed at the European Southern Observatory is found to be much larger, brighter and hotter than our humble Sun. R136a1 is said to be the largest star ever recorded. The New York Times details:
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A huge ball of brightly burning gas drifting through a neighboring galaxy may be the heaviest star ever discovered — hundreds of times more massive than the sun, scientists said Wednesday after working out its weight for the first time.
Those behind the find say the star, called R136a1, may once have weighed as much as 320 solar masses. Astrophysicist Paul Crowther said the obese star — twice as heavy as any previously discovered — has already slimmed down considerably over its lifetime.
In fact, it’s burning itself off with such intensity that it shines at nearly 10 million times the luminosity of the sun.
“Unlike humans, these stars are born heavy and lose weight as they age,” said Crowther, an astrophysicist at the University of Sheffield in northern England.