Milky Way's Most Massive Star Discovered (PHOTOS)

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The Milky Way galaxy's most massive star has been spotted in a "glowing stellar nursery" in space.

The picture (see below) of the massive Milky Way star was captured by the European Southern Observatory's aptly named 'Very Large Telescope,' which measures 27 feet in diameter.

The telescope, located at Cerro Paranal, Chile, combined data from violet, red and infrared filters to create the image of the Milky Way.

This massive star is housed in the NGC 3603 nebula, in the Carina spiral arm of the Milky Way, which is known as one of the luminous and most compact star clusters. It is located 22,000 light-years away from Earth.

Thousands of young suns similar or smaller in size to our sun have been born there, but there are some spectacular stars that are nearing the end of their lives, including several blue supergiants and three massive Wolf-Rayet stars.

Wolf-Rayet stars are extremely bright, massive and spew vast amounts of material out into space before exploding in enormous supernovae. The most massive of these is 120 times as massive as our sun and therefore the most massive star known in the Milky Way.

The thousands of stars in the nebula are all roughly a million years old, though some are near the beginning and others at the end of their lives. This is due to the fact that high-mass stars burn quickly through their life while smaller ones burn much slower.

Check out a close up of the nebula and the massive stars in the picture below, then see a collection of NASA's most extraordinary star photos, and incredible photos of Mars.

Here's a glimpse at the broader area around the NGC 3603 nebula:

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