plxzb4bljxuptdmu37y6This strange object which resembles a bottle gourd is actually a depiction of the largest yellow star known to science. HR5171A is located 11,700 light years from Earth in the heart of Centaurus (a southern constellation).  Actually the image above is two stars: HR5171A is part of a binary system and its companion star is so close that the topology of the hypergiant is affected. The smaller companion is not visible.  To quote Universe Today, “what we see is not the companion itself, but the regions gravitationally controlled and filled by the wind from the hypergiant.” It is uncanny how the giant star looks like a 1930s cartoon character’s head!  The combined system has a total mass 39 times that of our own sun, but their volume is vastly larger—nearly 1,300 times greater that that of the sun (and the luminosity of the star is a million times greater).  Although HR5171A is much less large than the true giants (like the astonishing Eta Carinae which has 120 solar masses), its ultimate fate is still not happy.  Yellow hypergiant stars are passing through a transitional phase on the way to going supernova (so enjoy it now, while you can).

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