Discovery of a Blue Supergiant Star Born in the Wild

A duo of astronomers, Dr. Youichi Ohyama (Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Academia Sinica or ASIAA, Taiwan) and Dr. Ananda Hota (UM-DAE Centre for Excellence in the Basic Sciences or CBS, India), has discovered a Blue Supergiant star located far beyond our Milky Way Galaxy in the constellation Virgo (Figure). Over fifty-five million years ago, it emerged in an extremely wild environment, surrounded by intensely hot plasma (a million degrees centigrade) and amidst raging cyclone winds blowing at four-million kilometers per hour. Research using the Subaru Telescope, the Canada-France-Hawaii-Telescope (CFHT) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) revealed unprecedented views of the star formation process in this intergalactic context and showed the promise of future investigations of a possibly new mode of star formation, unlike that within our Milky Way.

Figure: Psudo-color GALEX ultraviolet image of the galaxy IC 3418 falling into the Virgo cluster. Notice the young star-forming clumps in its 55,000 light-years-long trail, as the galaxy moves towards the top-right area. Zooming into one of the blobs, marked by the arrow, the colour optical image from CFHT shows the bright Blue Supergiant star in the middle of the inset image in the top-left area. The optical spectrum from the same star (bottom-right area), which was obtained by Subaru Telescope’s Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph (FOCAS), shows only one bright red emission line (H-alpha) due to the stellar wind and none of the other usual signs of star-forming regions. (Credit: NAOJ, CFHT, GALEX, Y. Ohyama & A. Hota)


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