A recently obtained view of one of the most massive stars in the Milky Way has helped scientists to comprehend how the large stars lose their body mass rapidly as they approach the end of their lives, getting ready for colossal supernova explosions.

Large stars that have come near their end start expanding dramatically to form mammoth red structures. VY Canis Majoris, which is situated nearly 3,800 light years away from the Earth, is one such enormous red hypergiant; to be more precise, scientists describe it as one of the biggest stars our home galaxy houses.

When such massive stars expand, they start ejecting gas and dust in huge quantities. However, to date, scientists didn’t have any clear idea about the exact mechanism behind such exodus. Things have become a lot clearer now as a new video of the massive star VY Canis Majoris has presented a zoomed-in view of the hypergiant.

New observations made through the Very Large Telescope at the ESO (European Southern Observatory), Chile has caught the gigantic star in much greater detail than any other previous operations could manage. The observations have been made at a time when the giant star was shedding mass. Here, it must be mentioned that these fresh views of the VY Canis Majoris were captured by means of the SPHERE instrument deployed at the Very Large Telescope.

In the video, the star is shown to possess surprisingly large dust grains which can be pushed away physically using the force exerted by starlight. Those big grains allow VY Canis Majoris to expel gas and dust in huge quantities every year; scientists at the ESO are saying that the mass of dust and gas expelled by the star each year is 30 times of the Earth’s mass.

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Astronomer Peter Scicluna from the Academia Sinica Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Taiwan said that massive stars are known to have short lives. He said that earlier scientists could only theorize how big stars that are in their final days of their lives lose mass quickly. However, now, after checking these newly obtained views of VY Canis Majoris, they have come to know what exactly leads to the mass loss.

The newly obtained views reveal that the massive dust grains around the star are big enough to be pushed away by the radiation pressure of the star, and that explains the reason behind VY Canis Majoris’ dramatic mass loss.


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