Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

October 8, 1997
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

The Brightest Star Yet Known
Credit: D. F. Figer (UCLA) et al., NICMOS, HST, NASA,

Explanation: Star light, star bright, a new brightest star has been discovered in the night. This new brightest star is so far away and so obscured by dust, however, that it took the Hubble Space Telescope to confirm it. In 1990 a star named the Pistol Star was known to lie at the center of the Pistol Nebula. In 1995 it was suggested that the Pistol Star was so massive it was throwing off the mass that actually created the Pistol Nebula. Now, observations from the Hubble Space Telescope released today confirm the spectral relation between the star and the nebula. Dramatic implications include that the star emits 10 million times more light than our Sun, and is about 100 times more massive. Astronomers are currently unsure how a star this massive could have formed and how it will act in the future.

Tomorrow's picture: Hale-Bopp and the North American Nebula

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.