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A monster star appears to be taking shape in a cloud of gas and dust about 8,000 light-years from Earth. It may be more than 1300 times the mass of the Sun — one of the heavier “protostars” yet seen. What’s more, it’s feeding faster than any other protostar. So this amazing object could produce a monster star.
MIR 2 is in a stellar nursery in Centaurus. From the southern states, the constellation stands low in the south around midnight. The nursery is too faint to see without a telescope.
The nursery is young, so it contains few natal stars. But MIR 2 makes up for the lack of siblings. It accounts for about half of all the energy coming from the nursery.
Recent studies suggest the protostar is just 40,000 years old. So it offers a unique chance to study how such massive stars are born.
MIR 2’s birth is controlled by two forces. Gravity pulls in material from the surrounding cloud. Much of that infalling gas forms a ribbon that’s massive enough to form 500 stars the size of the Sun. At the same time, radiation and magnetic fields are pushing material away from the protostar. That may be blocking the birth of smaller stars.
MIR 2 won’t maintain its great heft. The heaviest stars yet seen are only a couple of hundred times the Sun’s mass. Even so, when the fires of nuclear fusion ignite, in a million years or so, MIR 2 should be a monster — one of the more impressive stars in the galaxy.
Script by Damond Benningfield