A HYPERGIANT star is dying and researchers have been studying the phenomenon closely.
Astronomers at the University of Arizona have developed a model to track the activity of a red hypergiant star.
Named VY Canis Majoris, this star is possibly the largest in our Milky Way.
In fact, hypergiants are so large that they can measure up to 10,000 times the distance between Earth and the Sun in diameter.
The lifespans of these stars have been hotly debated lately, especially when it comes to the final stages of their lives.
Normally, stars explode in a supernova at the end of their lives, but there is no evidence that hypergiants do this.
Some have theorized that these stars are likely to collapse into a black hole instead.
However, scientists are unsure what causes these stars to evolve into black holes.
To find out more, the UA VY team observed Canis Majoris, which is just 3,009 light-years from Earth.
The team presented some of their findings on June 13 at the 240th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Pasadena, California.
“We’re particularly interested in what hypergiant stars do at the end of their lives,” Ambesh Singh, a chemistry doctoral student at the University of Arizona, said in a statement about the work.
“People used to think these massive stars just evolve into supernovae explosions, but we’re not so sure anymore.”
Using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, or ALMA, radio telescope in Chile, the team attempted to gather as much data as possible about the star – particularly its domed and knotted shape.
They studied molecules in ejected matter from the hypergiant star and then created maps of sulfur oxide, sulfur dioxide, silica, phosphorus oxide and sodium chloride using data from NASA’s Hubble Telescope.
“With these observations, we can now place these on maps in the sky,” said Dr. Ziurys in a statement.
“Only small parts of this enormous structure have been studied so far, but one cannot understand the mass loss and death of these large stars without looking at the entire region.
“That’s why we wanted to create an overall picture.”
The team is still sorting through much of their data and hopes to collect more that can help them better understand these massive stars and their deaths.