SCIENCE

'Monster' Star Forms In Milky Way (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

07/10/2013 03:26 pm ET | Updated Jul 10, 2013

Astronomers witnessed a spectacular sight recently when they spotted an embryonic "monster" star in the Milky Way. Though the star is still forming, it's expected to grow to become 100 times the mass of the sun, which would make it one of the galaxy's most massive stars.

The photo of this monster star in the Milky Way was quite a feat for scientists at the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) astronomy facility since the birth of such a large star is not often witnessed, let alone captured in a photo.

The star formation is located 11,000 light years from Earth in a stellar womb that is estimated to encompass 500 times the mass of the sun. In a photo of the formation, provided by the European Southern Observatory, the Milky Way's monster star appears as a yellow blob in the center of the "womb."

(Story continues below) monster star ALMA (ESO/NRAJ/NRAO)/NASA/Spitzer/JPL-Caltech/GLIMPSE

Why are such stars not often seen during their formation? The galaxy's most massive stars form within dark clouds that obscure them from view, ALMA notes in a statement.

Though the Milky Way may have once been filled with monster stars, astronomers suggest that these massive bodies of plasma died out millions of years ago. Now, a majority of the stars in the galaxy are red dwarfs, which are less than half the mass of the sun.

While the Milky Way is one of the more healthy, star-forming galaxies in the universe, the overall rate of star formation has dropped to a mere 3 percent of its peak amount some 11 billion years ago, an astronomical survey revealed in November.

See a photo series showing the monster star at different wavelengths of light along with a video illustrating the location of the formation within the Milky Way below:

star ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/NASA/JPL-Caltech/GLIMPSE

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ESO/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org), DSS, ALMA(ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), NASA/JPL-Caltech/GLIMPSE. Music: movetwo

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