'Monster Stars' Found By NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Could Change Our Understanding Of The Way Stars Are Formed

Joanna Jaguar

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found a cluster of "monster stars" -- stars that are more than 100 times the mass of our sun -- in what they are calling the largest sample of monster stars discovered to date.

This past week, NASA announced that an international team of scientists have found the largest cluster of monster stars ever discovered when the team used the Hubble's Wide Field 3 camera, combined with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) -- that uses ultraviolet spacial resolution to probe ultraviolet emissions of large star clusters. The combination of these two instruments allowed the scientists to "successfully dissect the young star cluster R136 in ultraviolet light for the first time."

What makes the discovery of these monster stars particularly fascinating is that their existence could potentially change our whole understanding of the way in which stars are formed, reports the Telegraph. Until now, scientists and astronomers believed that monster stars were formed when two smaller stars merged together. However, the amount of monster stars found within R136 means that that simply cannot be the only way monster stars are formed, and that instead, monster stars may be formed just like any other star, says Saida Caballero-Nieves, from Sheffield University's Department of Physics and Astronomy.

"There have been suggestions that these monsters result from the merger of less extreme stars in close binary systems. From what we know about the frequency of massive mergers, this scenario can't account for all the really massive stars that we see in R136, so it would appear that such stars can originate from the star formation process."

[Image of Tarantula Nebula via X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/L.Townsley et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI; Infrared: NASA/JPL/PSU/L.Townsley et al.]