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VY Canis Majoris is a red hyper giant and one of the largest known stars in the Milky Way. He has 30 to 40 times the mass of the sun and radiates 300, 000 times stronger than they. In addition, this star loses large amounts of gas and dust - every year about 30 times the mass of the earth.

Now, astronomers from the European Southern Observatory have succeeded in capturing the most detailed picture of VY Canis Majoris to date with the Very Large Telescope. At first glance it is "only" a blurry picture to see, but just that brings a small sensation.

At the center of the picture is the bright star, which illuminates the surrounding clouds of matter. The dust particles in these clouds polarize the starlight - therefore the image appears blurred. But with the help of the photo, scientists were now able to pinpoint the dust grains in the cloud. They are about 50 times larger than particles that are otherwise in interstellar space. Their size, so the researchers, now explains the rapid mass loss of the hyper giant.

Because the radiation pressure of the starlight can push the particles away from the star into space. If the dust particles were smaller, the radiation pressure would be on too small a surface - the particles would be repelled much slower from the star. display

Incidentally, in this close-up, the star has been darkened with a disk. The black cross in the middle is an artificial effect, an artefact created by the photographic instruments.

Photo: ESO

© science.de - Ruth Roebuck / Karin Schlott
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