Astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have discovered a gigantic star with some very unusual characteristics using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) located at the Paranal Observatory in northern Chile.
The massive star, which scientists have dubbed IRAS 17163-3907, bears a striking resemblance to a fried egg. Images captured by the infrared telescope show a large circular cloud consisting of gas and silicates, surrounding the yellow star like an egg white around a yolk.
“This object was known to glow brightly in the infrared but, surprisingly, nobody had identified it as a yellow hypergiant before,” said Eric Lagadec, who led the team that produced the new images.
The ESO astronomers estimate that the star is 1,000 times bigger than the sun and it shines 500,000 times more brightly. IRAS 17163-3907 is located 13,000 light years from the Earth, making it the closest yellow star to our solar system ever to be discovered.
Using the data gathered from Chile, astronomers estimate that the gas cloud around the star has a radius 10,000 times bigger than the distance between the Earth and the sun.
If the massive star was situated in the middle of our solar system, the astronomers say it would swallow up all the planets along with some of the larger comets beyond Neptune’s orbit.
In the past few hundred years, the “fried egg” star has undergone a series of major explosions which have led to the creation of the large gas cloud.
The astronomers believe that the star’s recent activity is proof that it will soon experience an even bigger supernova explosion, which could lead to the formation of several new stars.
To capture the unique fried egg image, the VLT used a camera with all three infrared filters: red, blue and green.