R136a1 Star - Size, Solar Mass, Diameter, Radius, Temperature, Distance to Earth

R136a1 Star - Size, Solar Mass, Diameter, Radius, Temperature, Distance from Earth

R136a1 Star

Welcome to the cosmic realm of R136a1 Star, a celestial wonder nestled within the heart of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. As we embark on a journey to explore the intricacies of R136a1, also known as RMC 136a1, we will delve into its awe-inspiring characteristics, its discovery, visibility, surroundings, and the fascinating glimpse into its future.

R136 Star

R136a1 Size: A Colossal Cosmic Titan

At the heart of the NGC 2070 open cluster in the Tarantula Nebula, R136a1 commands attention with its colossal size. Stretching over 30 million miles in diameter, it dwarfs our own Sun, boasting a volume nearly 80,000 times larger. Imagine a cosmic titan, 35 times the size of our Sun, reigning supreme in the celestial kingdom.

R136a1 Star Type

R136a1 is not just any star; it belongs to the elite class of Wolf–Rayet stars, specifically identified as WN5h. This rare stellar type exhibits a unique spectrum with broad emission lines of ionized helium and highly ionized nitrogen. R136a1's spectral dance tells the tale of its intense luminosity and profound cosmic influence.

R136a1 Solar Mass

Behold the cosmic heavyweight! R136a1 tips the cosmic scales at a staggering 196 solar masses. This colossal mass, 196 times that of our Sun, propels R136a1 into the ranks of the most massive stars ever discovered, a true behemoth in the cosmic tableau.

R136a1 Diameter

To grasp the grandeur of R136a1's dimensions, envision a star with a radius of approximately 15 million miles, a celestial giant extending its luminous reach into the cosmos. Its dimensions defy earthly comparison, painting a portrait of celestial proportions.

R136a1 Radius

Dive into the depths of R136a1's cosmic anatomy, where its radius spans 42.7 times that of our Sun. This celestial sphere, defined by a dense atmosphere and stellar wind, captivates astronomers and stargazers alike, revealing the intricate tapestry of the universe.

R136a1 Surface Temperature

Feel the cosmic heat radiating from R136a1's surface, with temperatures soaring to a blistering 46,000 K. This stellar inferno, nearly eight times hotter than our Sun, bathes the cosmos in extreme ultraviolet radiation, contributing to the mesmerizing spectacle of the Tarantula Nebula.

R136a1 Distance to Earth

In the far reaches of the Large Magellanic Cloud, approximately 163,000 light-years away, R136a1 adorns the cosmic stage. This distant neighbor, residing in the Dorado constellation, captivates observers with its brilliance, visible only through advanced telescopes or sophisticated techniques.

R136a1 Star

R136a1 Description Table

Property Details
Common Names R136a1, RMC 136a1, HSH95 3, WO84 1b, NGC 2070 MH 498, CHH92 1, P93 954, BAT99 108
Classification Wolf-Rayet-Hypergiant WN5h star
Location Large Magellanic Cloud, R136 star cluster
Distance Approximately 163,000 light-years (49,970 pc)
Apparent Magnitude (V) 12.23
Age Around 1 million years
Mass 196+34/-27 M☉ (Solar masses)
Radius 42.7 R☉ (Solar radii)
Luminosity 4,677,000 L☉ (Solar luminosities)
Surface Temperature 46,000+1,250/-2,375 K
Rotational Velocity 160 km/s
Rate of Mass Loss 3.21 x 10^28 kg/s
Evolutionary Stage Wolf–Rayet star
Spectral Type WN5h
Absolute Magnitude (MV) -8.18
Astrophysical Age 1.14+0.17/-0.14 million years
Cluster R136 star cluster
Future Evolution Core-collapse supernova, likely forming a black hole
Visibility Requires powerful telescopic magnification
Contribution to Ionization Supplies about 7% of ionizing flux in the 30 Doradus region
Notable Features Intensely luminous, massive, and hot star with a high rate of mass loss

Discovering R136a1

The tale of R136a1 began in 1960 when astronomers at the Radcliffe Observatory in Pretoria meticulously measured the brightness and spectra of stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud. RMC 136, initially thought to be a multiple star system, turned out to be the central star of the Tarantula Nebula. The true nature of R136a1 was revealed in 1979 when ESO's 3.6 m telescope resolved it into three components: R136a, R136b, and R136c. Later confirmation came in 1985 through speckle interferometry, with R136a1 shining as the brightest star in the cluster.

Visibility and Surroundings

In the night sky, R136a1 appears as a 10th magnitude object at the core of the NGC 2070 cluster. Its visibility requires substantial telescopic power, emphasizing its celestial grandeur. Situated in the Dorado constellation, the R136a system is a luminous knot of stars, with R136a1, R136a2, and R136a3 standing out as the most prominent. Positioned approximately 157,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, R136a1 boasts relative freedom from interstellar dust, allowing astronomers to study its radiance with clarity.

Properties and Classification

R136a1 is a Wolf–Rayet star, specifically a high-luminosity WN5h star. Its spectroscopic characteristics showcase broad emission lines of ionized helium, nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen. The star's mass, radius, and luminosity are truly staggering, with a mass of 196 M☉, a radius of 42.7 R☉, and a luminosity of 4,677,000 L☉. The extreme conditions of R136a1's surface are evidenced by its temperature of around 46,000 K, making it one of the hottest stars known.

Evolution and Future

At 1 million years old, R136a1 is a young star still burning hydrogen in its core. The star's evolution is marked by extreme mass loss through a stellar wind, shedding approximately 35 M☉ since its formation. As one of the most massive stars, R136a1 is rapidly approaching its future fate. The high luminosity and intense radiation place it close to the Eddington limit, making it an intriguing candidate for further study.

R136a1 Stars

R136a1 Facts

  1. Distance and Location:
    • R136a1 is located approximately 163,000 light-years away from Earth, within the Dorado constellation of the Milky Way's satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud.
    • It sits in the R136 star cluster, which was initially cataloged as RMC 136.
  2. Size, Mass, and Luminosity:
    • R136a1 has a diameter of about 30 million miles, which is approximately 35 times larger than our Sun.
    • Its mass is estimated to be around 315 times that of the Sun.
    • The star is almost 9 million times more luminous than the Sun.
    • About 4 billion Suns could fit inside R136a1.
    • It radiates more energy in 5 seconds than our Sun does in an entire Earth year.
  3. Temperature and Classification:
    • R136a1 has an estimated temperature of around 53,000 K, making it about 10 times hotter than the Sun.
    • It is classified as a Wolf-Rayet-Hypergiant, specifically a very high luminosity WN5h star, located on the extreme top left corner of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram.
  4. Formation and Age:
    • R136a1 is relatively young, being around 1 million years old, and it formed in the active star-forming region of the Large Magellanic Cloud.
    • It is predominantly composed of hydrogen and helium and is part of the Wolf-Rayet star category, containing high amounts of heavy elements.
  5. Mass Loss and Stellar Wind:
    • R136a1 is losing mass at a rate of 3.21 x 10^28 kg/s, with scientists estimating it may have already lost about 50 solar masses.
    • The high-speed stellar wind is a result of intense electromagnetic radiation from the star's photosphere.
  6. Future and Destiny:
    • Due to its massive size and luminosity, R136a1 is expected to burn out its fuel rapidly and undergo a type Ic core-collapse supernova.
    • The star is likely to become either a black hole or a neutron star, with the former being the more probable outcome due to its enormous mass.
  7. Unique Characteristics:
    • R136a1 supplies about 7% of the ionizing flux for the entire 30 Doradus region.
    • Despite its large mass and modest dimensions, R136a1 has an average density of around 1% of the Sun's.
    • The rotation rate cannot be directly measured due to the dense stellar wind.
    • If R136a1 were in the Solar System, Earth would likely be destroyed in under a day, and the remaining planets in about a week.
    • If replacing our Sun, R136a1 would outshine it by about 94,000 times.
  1. Discovery and Observations:
    • R136a1 was first discovered in 1960 by astronomers at Pretoria’s Redcliffe Observatory during observations of the Tarantula Nebula. Initially cataloged as RMC 136, it was later identified as part of a cluster of luminous stars.
    • In 1979, astronomers using ESO’s 3.6-meter telescope mistakenly identified RMC 136 as three separate stars (R136a, R136b, and R136c), but subsequent observations corrected this, revealing eight stars with R136a1 as the brightest.
    • The Hubble Space Telescope, launched later, played a crucial role in confirming R136a1 as the most massive and luminous star in the RMC 136 star cluster in 2010.
  2. Contribution to Ionizing Flux:
    • R136a1 contributes significantly to the ionizing flux of the 30 Doradus region, supplying around 7% of the total.
  3. Comparisons with Other Stars:
    • Despite its massive size, R136a1's dimensions are dwarfed by red supergiants, which are several hundred times larger but not as massive.
    • The average density of R136a1 is about 1% of the Sun's, exceeding Earth's atmosphere density by over 10 times.
  4. Potential Dangers:
    • If R136a1 were placed in the Solar System, Earth would likely face destruction in less than a day, with the remaining planets following suit in about a week.
    • Its immense luminosity would outshine our Sun by approximately 94,000 times if it replaced it in our solar system.
  5. Cluster and Cosmic Context:
    • R136a1 resides in the R136 star cluster within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. The cluster contains numerous other massive stars, but R136a1 stands out as the most luminous and massive.
    • The cluster was initially identified as RMC 136, and through improved observations, it was revealed to be a cluster of 200 very luminous stars.
  6. Rate of Mass Loss:
    • R136a1 is experiencing a significant rate of mass loss, shedding material at a rate of 3.21 x 10^28 kg/s. This substantial loss, coupled with its intense stellar wind, contributes to its evolving state.
  7. Unique Spectral Features:
    • As a Wolf-Rayet-Hypergiant WN5h star, R136a1 exhibits a unique spectral signature characterized by strong and broad emission lines of ionized nitrogen, helium, carbon, oxygen, and occasionally silicon. This emission spectrum is a result of a powerful and dense stellar wind.
  8. Future Evolution - Black Hole Formation:
    • Due to its massive size and intense luminosity, R136a1 is expected to burn through its fuel rapidly. Its inevitable fate involves undergoing a type Ic core-collapse supernova.
    • Given its enormous mass, the most likely outcome is the formation of a black hole, signifying the end of its stellar life cycle.
  9. Observational Challenges:
    • Observing R136a1's features requires powerful telescopic magnification due to its faintness. The star is five orders of magnitude fainter than what the naked eye can perceive.
  10. Impacts on Surroundings:
    • R136a1's intense radiation and stellar wind contribute significantly to the ionization of the 30 Doradus region, playing a crucial role in the cosmic environment.
  11. Historical Significance:
    • The discovery of R136a1 and its subsequent confirmation as the most massive and luminous star in the RMC 136 cluster in 2010 marked a significant milestone in our understanding of extreme stellar phenomena.


R136a1 stands as a testament to the cosmic wonders that the universe holds. Its sheer mass, luminosity, and unique characteristics make it a focal point for astronomers seeking to unravel the mysteries of stellar evolution. As technology advances, our understanding of R136a1 and other celestial marvels is sure to deepen, opening new frontiers in the exploration of the cosmos. Join us in marveling at the brilliance of R136a1, the shining star at the heart of the Tarantula Nebula.

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