Astronomers using images taken from the Very Large Telescope (actual name) in Chile have found the biggest stars ever, with one, called R136a1, said to be 265 bigger than the Sun.
A team of astronomers from the European Space Agency used archival data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, in addition to the images from the Very Large Telescope, to study the star clusters. One cluster is 22,000 light years away from the Sun, while the other cluster is 165,000 light years away. The leader of the group, Professor Paul Crowther from the University of Sheffield, said of the find:
Unlike humans, these stars are born heavy and lose weight as they age. Being a little over a million years old, the most extreme star R136a1 is already ‘middle-aged' and has undergone an intense weight loss programme, shedding a fifth of its initial mass over that time, or more than fifty solar masses."
Basking in the glory of this historic discovery, Crowther added, "Owing to the rarity of these monsters, I think it is unlikely that this new record will be broken any time soon."
[Image of R136a1 via ESO]