STATES CHRONICLE – Holidays bring joy and worries about getting fat and we look for star inspired diets, but take a look at how a galactic star loses weight.
VY Canis Majoris is one of the most massive stars in our galaxy, having a mass equaling the mass of our sun multiplied by 40. This basically means that if this star would replace our sun its layers would go past the orbit of Jupiter. Fortunately, the star is located over 3,800 light-years from us in the constellation Canis Major.
But the VY Canis Major is not only very large but also very old. The star is going through its final stages of stellar hyper-life and it will soon turn its light off. In the meantime, however, the stars is rapidly losing weight. This means it’s actually swelling outwards and very large amount of material are shed into space.
How do we know this? Well, astronomers at the ESO’s Chile Observatory have been observing this with the help of SPHERE installed on a telescope. With this instrument called “Spectro Polarimetric High-constrast Exoplanet Research”, the scientists could watch directly how the VY Canis Majoris’ light is being scattered and then polarized by clouds of gas or dust which are cast off by the star.
According to their calculations, the star sheds every year the equivalent of 30 Earths. Most of it takes the form of large dust particles. These particles seemed to be large enough to move far enough from the star that they won’t be destroyed by the upcoming supernova that will tear apart the old star.
It seems that this is not something extraordinary. Usually massive stars don’t have very long lives and when they approach their end they tend to lose a lot of mass. The dust particles shed by the giant star are big enough for the star’s radiation pressure to push them away. This explains why the VY Canis Majoris is losing so much mass in such a short time.
Although the star is rapidly approaching its end, don’t expect it to explode before Christmas. It will probably take a few other hundred thousand years, but that’s soon when we speak ‘cosmically’. Since the star is located in our galaxy, although far away, it’s massive explosion will be seen from Earth and it is expected to be an amazing spectacle.
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