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Astronomers create a 3D map that reveals “unprecedented” details of the death of a red hypergiant star

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With a size between 10,000 and 15,000 astronomical units, VY Canis Majoris, located more than 3,000 light years from our planet, is considered one of the most massive stars in the Milky Way.

A team of researchers presented on June 13, at the 240th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, the first three-dimensional model of the star VY Canis Majoris, which offers an “unprecedented” view of the death of the red hypergiant, recently reported by the University of Arizona.

According to the statement, to explore the mechanisms that cause the loss of the mass of the star until the end of its life, astronomers took on the task of tracking certain molecules detected around the hypergiant and, supported by images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, map them.

In this context, scientists used the Chilean Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) telescope to track a variety of molecules ejected by the celestial body from its surface. By positioning ALMA’s 48 radio antennas in different configurations, they were able to obtain information about the vectors described by the molecules and map them in detail across the different regions around VY Canis Majoris, even correlating them with different mass ejection events along weather.

Despite the fact that some of the observations are still underway, experts say, “they obtained preliminaries of sulfur oxide, sulfur dioxide, silicon oxide, oxide of phosphorus and sodium chloride”, from which they managed to build “an image of the global structure of the molecular outflow of VY Canis Majoris on scales that cover all the material ejected from the star”.

Unlike lower-mass stars, the university experts explain, hypergiants “have They tend to experience sporadic substantial mass loss events that form complex and very irregular structures composed of arcs, groups and knots”, which can extend for millions of kilometers.

According to Lucy Ziurys, co-author of the study, the red hypergiant in question is located about 3,009 light years from Earth, in the constellation of Canis Major. According to estimates, it has a size of between 10,000 and 15,000 astronomical units – one astronomical unit is equivalent at the average distance between the Earth and the Sun–, which makes it one of the most massive stars in the Milky Way.

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