Astronomers identify second-brightest star in Milky Way

By Xinhua,

Washington : A contender for the title of the brightest star in our Milky Way has been unearthed in the dusty metropolis of the galaxy’s center, according to a new study in an upcoming issue of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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Nicknamed the “Peony nebula star,” the bright stellar bulb was revealed by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and other ground-based telescopes. It blazes with the light of an estimated 3.2 million suns, reported a team of German astronomers.

The reigning “brightest star” champion is Eta Carina, with a whopping solar wattage of 4.7 million suns. But according to astronomers, it is hard to pin down an exact brightness, or luminosity, for these scorching stars, so they could potentially shine with a similar amount of light.

“Peony nebula star appears to be the second-brightest star that we now know of in the galaxy, and it’s located deep into the galaxy’s center,” said Lidia Oskinova of Potsdam University in Germany. “There are probably other stars just as bright if not brighter in our galaxy that remain hidden from view.”

Scientists already knew about the Peony nebula star, but because of its sheltered location in the dusty central hub of our galaxy, its extreme luminosity was not revealed until now.

Spitzer’s dust-piercing infrared eyes can see straight into the heart of our galaxy, into regions impenetrable by visible light. “Infrared astronomy opens extraordinary views into the environment of the central region of our galaxy,” said Oskinova.

The brightest stars in the universe are also the biggest. Astronomers estimate the Peony nebula star kicked off its life with a hefty mass of roughly 150 to 200 times that of our sun.

With so much mass, the Peony nebula star will ultimately blow up in a fantastic explosion called a supernova. In fact, Oskinova and her colleagues say that the star is ripe for exploding soon, which in astronomical terms mean anytime from now to millions of years from now.