The universe is like an endless ocean of stars. It has approximately 1 billion trillion stars in it. That is one followed by 21 zeroes! With such a vast universe spread out around us, it is hard to even perceive the overwhelming numbers. But, our scientists have been in quest of more knowledge about these beautiful objects. And they’ve come across some really weird stars along the years. Follow on to read about five oddest stars to be discovered so far.
1. The Spinning Egg Shaped star-Vega
Vega is the 5th brightest star in our night skies, and you’ve probably noticed it too. However, upon close examination, the star reveals its true colors. It rotates at an insane velocity-a mind-boggling 600,000 miles per hour, about its equator. Its velocity is so high that the star bulges in the middle and protrudes out near the poles.
Its ovular and oblate shape resembles a blue egg. According to studies, scientists suggest that Vega is spinning at 90% of its maximum rotating velocity. It is so high that a 10% rise in its rotational speed could break its gravity and rip itself apart,
Vega is wide at its equator and narrower towards the poles. Due to its rotation, it is cooler near its equator compared to its poles.
Sure these features make it pretty weird indeed. But its weirdness doesn’t stop there! Vega is unlike usual stars that shine evenly. Its bulging equator is cooler, and it shines less brightly compared to its poles. This brings a dark stripe along its equator. Scientists believe the stripe is a result of the cooler temperatures close to its equator, thanks to its otherworldly spinning velocity. As the equator remains cooler the light produced becomes dimmer, creating the dark stripes.
Note that it is located in the constellation of Lyra. Remember to look up this visible time the next time. And don’t forget to remember the weird facts that it hides from us when viewed with naked eyes.
2. Mystery Star-Tabby’s Star
If we discuss the unsolved secrets in the world of stars, we have to discuss Tabby’s star.
Its discovery followed an interesting plot. The Kepler spacecraft is dedicated to lookout for planets in outer space. It detects the planets by sensing a drop in the level of light from a star. This indicates that a planet is passing in front of it. Usually, the drop in the level of light is 1%.
However, the planet hunters were intrigued when they found a star with weird brightness variations. It was located 1,200 light-years from the Earth, in the constellation of Cygnus. It is 1.4 times heavier than the sun and was officially named KIC 8462852.
What caught the astronomer’s attention was that the drop in brightness when the object passed in front of it was 20%. This is too high for it to be a planet. It was concluded to be an object bigger than a planet.
Speculations were made about the possible objects that could cause a drop in brightness. They put forward suggestions that it could be a swarm of comets or even aliens. Scientists also came up with a theoretical explanation that it was an artificial structure looking to draw energy from the star. It was even named “Dyson Swarm”.
However, further studies ruled out the possibility of artificial objects. Instead, it was a cluster of dust. It s believed that the dust could have come from a destroyed comet or planet.
Researchers never witnessed a 20% drop in the light again. But, they did observe a 5% drop afterward which is again too high for it to be a planet. They are still trying to find the reason behind it. It remains one of those unanswered mysteries of our universe.
3. Star Giant-Stephenson 2-18
Want to talk about big? Then talk about the Stephenson 2-18 star. With a size 2150 times larger than the sun, it is the largest star ever known. Its official name is RSGC2-18 or Stephenson 2-DFK 1 and is located in the constellation of Scutum. Note that it is situated 18,900 light-years from the Earth and comes under the Stephenson 2 open cluster. This is one of the largest open clusters within the Milky Way.
It falls under the category of red supergiant under the spectral type of M6. With a brightness of 440,000 solar luminosities, it is among the most luminous supergiants observed to date. Its surface temperature measures 3200 K.
To get a perspective of its size, just imagine an example. If the Stephenson 2-18 replaces the Sun in the solar system, it will reach beyond Saturn’s orbit. Besides, the star’s size is equivalent to a volume of 10 billion times higher than the sun. Only a few other stars even come close to this magnitude.
The cluster is named after American astronomer Charles Stephenson. He found the cluster in June 1990 using an infrared objective-prism survey conducted in deep space. It spans 6 inches in the night sky and consists of 26 red supergiants. This is the largest collection of such giants in the Milky Way.
Stephenson 2-18 moves at 20 km/s which is lesser than the remaining cluster stars. The giant star is also close to shedding its external layers and turning to a luminous blue variable, also called a Wolf-Rayet star. Stephenson 2-18 can’t be seen with naked eyes because of the heavy dust that blocks it, however, you can see it under infrared light.
4. Giant Star-Uy Scuti
Imagine there is a star the size of Jupiter’s orbit around the sun. A photon that starts from its core would take 43 minutes to reach its periphery if it faces no obstacles. This is what Uy Scuti is like. Yes, it is huge!
UY Scuti is situated in the constellation of Scutum. It is one of the largest stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. It held the record of the largest star in our galaxy for a long time.
Uy Scuti is a red supergiant, an aging star. It is a star with large enough mass to change into a red supergiant, the largest known category of stars. Their formation starts when a star depletes its hydrogen inside its core and starts to collapse. The outer shell of hydrogen surrounding the core starts the fusion process. Then, the shell expands and the cool star turns red.
UY Scuti is situated in a constellation of Scutum, 5100 lightyears away. It is similar to the red supergiant Betelgeuse, but is three times large and will end its period turning into a supernova.
There are limitations to our knowledge regarding Uy Scuti. Its distance from our planet is also under question. However, it is one of the farthest stars to have its angular or apparent size as visible from our planet measured directly.
To have a perspective of its volume, you can fit 5 billion suns inside it. You can stuff all the objects in the solar system yet, there would be plenty of space within Uy Scuti. It is the largest start in our galaxy, but not the most massive. Note that the most massive start in our galaxy weighs around 120 times the mass of the sun. Meanwhile, Uy Scuti weighs 7-10 times the solar mass. Hence, it is not that dense but is large.
5. Cannibal Star- HV 2112
Can you imagine a star swallowing another star? Yes, it sounds, but it is true. HV2112 is a Cannibal Star. It is a giant star with another neutron star inside its core. Scientists believe it was a part of a binary system that contained the red giant and a neutron star. Later, the giant swallowed the small one and we have HV 2112. The system is called a Thorne-Zytkow Object. Its definition is so weird that it pushed the limits of what was imagined about stars.
The two stars that constitute HV2112, a red giant and a neutron star, are already in extreme states. And remember that a teaspoon of a neutron star can weigh 4 billion tons. Secondly, a red giant is a gigantic type of star. If placed in the center of the Solar system, it can extend beyond Mars’ orbit. The combination of these two monstrous structures becomes one of the extreme objects ever observed.
The star appears like a red star. It moves heavy elements like rubidium, molybdenum, and lithium to its upper gas envelope. This makes it appear a bit strange in terms of the spectrum displayed.
HV2112 doesn’t just make a bizarre appearance, it behaves differently from a conventional star. The arrangement itself enables strange ways of manufacturing elements. In fact, it creates heavy elements different from what was expected. The truth is, the existence of HV2112 has forced the scientific community to completely deviate from fundamental assumptions regarding the universe.
It has not been confirmed as a Thorne-Zytkow Object, but scientists believe the possibility is high.
As said before, the universe is an endless ocean, spreading beyond what we can observe. As our exploration into deep space continues, new mysteries turn up and old mysteries may unfurl. Until then, the above stars will remain weird in their own ways.