Observatory in Chile captures image of unusually brilliant star

Astronomers of the European Southern Observatory were able to take a new photograph of the star WR 22, known for its unusual brilliance, allowing it to be seen from Earth by the naked eye in spite of being over 5,000 light years away from our planet.


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From the astronomical observatory of La Silla, located in the region of Coquimbo in the north of Chile, specialists managed to capture a new image of the unusually brilliant star WR 22. This is considered to be a very hot and radiant “stellar beacon” which, upon nearing the end of its life, is projecting its radiation into space at a speed several times greater than that of the Sun.

The astronomers, who belong to the European Southern Observatory (ESO) were able to record the image through an instrument known as the Wide Field Imager (WFI), installed on a 2.2-meter telescope situated at La Silla. This astronomical complex is one of ESO’s three installations in Chile, a country that stands out for the quality of its skies for astronomical observation.

The star, which has a mass 70 times larger than that of the Sun, is part of a binary star system and is located in the southern constellation of Carina, also known as NGC 3372, on the keel of Jason’s ship Argo in Greek mythology. Its brilliance is such that in spite of being 5,000 light years away from Earth, in conditions of good visibility it can be seen by the naked eye.

The image captured by the experts shows a star with a reddish color, resulting from the interaction between the intense ultraviolet radiation that issues from hot massive stars and the vast clouds of gas, mostly hydrogen, where they are formed.

In the photograph showing the WR 22, a star belonging to those known as Wolf-Rayet in honor of the two Frenchmen who discovered them in the 19th century, another star, Eta Carinae, can also be seen. This is one of the most massive stars of the Milky Way, with a mass 100 times greater than that of the Sun and approximately four million times brighter, which makes it be considered the most luminous star known to this day.