Runner-up in the brilliance competition
And the silver medal goes to … the Peony nebula star. Observing the dusty center of the Milky Way, astronomers have found a hidden treasure: the second-brightest star known in the galaxy. Researchers had already known of the star’s existence, named for the flowery shape of its surrounding cloud of gas and dust. But the blanket of dust at the galaxy’s center had obscured the star’s true brilliance.
Examining infrared radiation from the star, which penetrates
the blanket of dust, Lidia Oskinova of the
The Peony nebula star began its life as a heavyweight, with an initial mass of about 150 to 200 times that of the sun. It’s evolved into a type of giant blue star called a Wolf-Rayet, known for its fierce winds of up to 1.6 million kilometers per hour. The star is also huge, with a radius roughly equal to the distance between Mercury and the sun. The star will eventually blow up in a supernova explosion, as will the brightest known star in the galaxy — another heavyweight called Eta Carina, which has an estimated luminosity equivalent to 4.7 million suns.