Curious where the super stars live? Head in the direction of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud and keep going for 170,000 light-years. There you’ll find dozens of stars that are 50 times bigger than the sun and nine monster stars 100 times more massive than the sun.
“Together, these nine stars outshine the sun by a factor of 30 million,” notes the European Space Agency in a press release about the discovery, which is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The most massive star in the universe, known as R136a1, is more than 250 times bigger than the sun.
An international team of scientists discovered the nine bigwigs by combining Hubble Wide Field Camera 3 pictures with high-resolution ultraviolet imagery collected by Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, or STIS instrument.
The discovery is expected to fuel debate about how such massive stars come to exist.
“There have been suggestions that these monsters result from the merger of less extreme stars in close binary systems. From what we know about the frequency of massive mergers, this scenario can’t account for all the really massive stars that we see in R136,” University of Sheffield astronomer Saida Caballero-Nieves said in a statement.
STIS data also showed that the giant stars are losing mass rapidly, ejecting the equivalent mass of Earth every month.