MessageToEagle.com - Located at a distance of about 13 000 light-years from Earth, in the heart of the Milky Way in the
constellation of Scorpius, a yellow hypergiant with a diameter about a thousand times bigger than our Sun could soon face its final days and die.
Despite its enormous size, the star has not been identified as yellow hypergiant until recently.
When the stars explodes, astronomers will have a new opportunity to study a supernova explosions in our galaxy.
Astronomers have used ESO's Very Large Telescope to image the monster star, known as IRAS 17163-3907, a colossal star that
belongs to one of the rarest classes of stars in the Universe, the yellow hypergiants.
The new picture is the best ever taken of a star in this class and shows for the first time a huge dusty double shell surrounding the central hypergiant.
The star and its shells resemble an egg white around a yolky centre, leading the astronomers to nickname the object the Fried Egg Nebula.
New observations show IRAS 17163-3907 shines some 500 000 times more brightly than the Sun.
The total mass of this star is estimated to be roughly twenty times that of the Sun.
IRAS 17163-3907 is one of the 30 brightest stars in the infrared sky, at the wavelength of 12 microns observed by IRAS, but it had been overlooked because it is quite faint in visible light.
"This object was known to glow brightly in the infrared but, surprisingly, nobody had identified
it as a yellow hypergiant before," said Eric Lagadec (European Southern Observatory), who led the team that produced the new images.
IRAS 17163-3907 shines some 500 000 times more brightly than the Sun. Credit: ESO
The observations of the star and the discovery of its surrounding shells were made using the VISIR infrared camera on the VLT.
The pictures are the first of this object to clearly show the material around it and reveal two almost perfectly spherical shells.
This picture of the nebula around a rare yellow hypergiant star called IRAS 17163-3907 is the best ever taken of a star
in this class and shows for the first time a huge dusty double shell surrounding the central hypergiant. The star and
its shells resemble an egg white around a yolky centre, leading astronomers to nickname the object the Fried Egg Nebula. Credit: ESO/E. Lagadec
Click on image to enlarge
This chart shows the location
of the rare yellow hypergiant
star IRAS 17163-3907 within
the constellation of Scorpius
This map shows
most of the stars visible to
the unaided eye under good
conditions and the location
of the star itself is marked
with a red circle. Although
this object appears very bright
in the infrared sky it is faint
in visible light and hard to find
in the very rich star-fields of
the centre of the Milky Way.
Credit: ESO, IAU and Sky & Telescope
If the Fried Egg Nebula were placed in the centre of the Solar System the Earth would lie deep within the star itself and the planet Jupiter
would be orbiting just above its surface.
The much larger surrounding nebula would engulf all the planets and dwarf planets and even some of the comets that orbit far beyond the orbit of Neptune.
The outer shell has a radius of 10 000 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
Yellow hypergiants are in an extremely active phase of their evolution, undergoing a series of explosive events — this star has ejected four
times the mass of the Sun in just a few hundred years.
The material flung out during these bursts has formed the extensive double shell of the nebula, which is made of dust rich in silicates and mixed with gas.
This activity also shows that the star is likely to soon die an explosive death — it will be one of the next supernova explosions in our galaxy.
Supernovae provide much-needed chemicals to the surrounding interstellar environment and the resulting shock waves can kick start the formation of new stars.
The Very Large Telescope mid-IR instrument, VISIR, captured this delicious image of the Fried Egg Nebula through three mid-infrared filters
that are here coloured blue, green and red.
After burning all their hydrogen all stars of ten solar masses or more become red supergiants.
This phase ends when the star has finished burning all of its helium.
Some of these high-mass stars then spend just a few million years in the post-red supergiant phase as yellow hypergiants, a relatively
short time in the life of a star, before rapidly evolving into another unusual type of star called a luminous blue variable.
These hot and brilliant stars are continuously varying in brightness and are losing matter due to the strong stellar winds they expel.
But this is not the end of the star's evolutionary adventure, as it may next become a different kind of unstable star known as a
Wolf-Rayet star before ending its life as a violent supernova
Click on image to enlarge
M1-67 is the youngest wind-nebula around a Wolf-Rayet star, called WR124, in our Galaxy. These Wolf-Rayet stars start their lives with dozens
of times the mass of our Sun, but loose most of it through a powerful wind, which is ultimately responsible for the formation of the nebula.
Ten years ago, Hubble Space Telescope observations revealed a wealth of small knots and substructures inside the nebula. The same team, led by
Cédric Foellmi (ESO), has now used ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) to watch how these structures have evolved and what they can teach us about
stellar winds, their chemistry, and how they mix with the surrounding interstellar medium, before the star will eventually blow everything away
in a fiery supernova explosion.
The image is based on FORS1 data obtained by the Paranal Science team with the VLT through 2 wide (B and V) and 3 narrow-band filters.
ESO, Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org) and Digitized Sky Survey 2. Music: John Dyson (from the album Moonwind)
This zoom video sequence starts with the spectacular view of the central parts of the Milky Way. As we close in on the constellation of Scorpius,
one of the richest parts of the sky, many clusters and nebula appear. The final sequence closes in on an apparently unremarkable star, IRAS 17163-3907,
which has been found by recent VLT observations to be a rare yellow hypergiant star, surrounded by two shells.
MessageToEagle.com based on material provided by ESO
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