ESO

Huge Yellow Star Found With Another Star On Its Surface

The largest yellow star ever discovered, 1300 times the diameter of our sun, has another star orbiting so closely they're actually touching.

By Steven Sparkman | March 12, 2014

There are somewhere around 300 billion stars in our galaxy, so if the discovery of a single star is enough to make headlines, you better believe it's an impressive one.

Scientists at the European Southern Observatory, or ESO, say a yellow hypergiant in the constellation Centaurus is the largest yellow star ever discovered, and an easy contender for the top 10 largest stars of any kind. This is an actual photograph of it. (Via ESO / Digitized Sky Survey 2)

Yellow hypergiants are one of the rarest kinds of star, with only around a dozen ever discovered. That's because they're thought to be undergoing a radical change from red to blue, and the process doesn't take very long. (Via ESO / Nick Risinger / Digitized Sky Survey 2)

The star was already known to be a yellow hypergiant, but astronomers weren't sure how big it was. They used the Very Large Telescope Array in northern Chile to take a closer look. (Via ESO)

Ok, so rather than throw a bunch of numbers at you, here are a couple of the science media's best comparisons to help you understand what the researchers found.

It's 1300 times the diameter of our sun. New Scientist crunched the numbers and found, "That means it would engulf all the planets between Mercury and Jupiter if placed at the centre of our solar system."

It's 12,000 light-years away, which is pretty far, but Discover Magazine points out ​"It's also about a million times brighter than our sun" meaning "It's bright enough that you could still spot it with the naked eye under ideal conditions." As far as we can tell, that makes it one of the most distant individual stars you can see in the night sky.

It's also getting bigger. Even though the star is already nearly twice as big as astronomers thought yellow hypergiants could get, a look back at older data found it's actually grown over the last 40 years. And that's not the only surprise.

The huge star has a tiny twin! The pair make up a binary system, and the lead researcher says "The two stars are so close that they touch and the whole system resembles a gigantic peanut." Yes, the two stars physically touch. (Via ESO)

So there are a number of reasons why this discovery is such an oddity. Studying the unique system will hopefully give scientists more insight into how hypergiants age and evolve, as well as, you know, the effects of having a star on top of another star.

  TRENDING IN Sci/Health NEWS
Artist rendering of newly researched galaxies.WATCHLIST
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

Hundreds Of Galaxies Were Hiding Behind The Milky Way

Medical MarijuanaWATCHLIST
Getty Images / David McNew

Medical Marijuana Might Be Legalized In Australia Really Soon

A man kisses his horse.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Julian Herbert

Researchers Say Horses Can Recognize Our Facial Expressions

With so many working to fix racial bias in adults, we spoke with a neuroscience researcher who says we may need to focus our attention on kids instead In this file photograph taken on March 20, 2007, a two-week-old boy finds his feet in his new world. Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced, April 3, 2007 that for the first time, mothers-to-be will have a guarantee that the NHS will provide them with a full range of birthing choices - including home births - and a midwife they know and trust to care for them. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Christopher Furlong

Why Fixing Racial Biases Starts With Babies

Senior citizens walk along Llandudno Promenade on September 8, 2014 in Llandudno, Wales.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Christopher Furlong

Why Live Forever? Life Is Long Enough

Senior citizens relax on Llandudno Promenade on September 8, 2014 in Llandudno, Wales.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Christopher Furlong

Want To Live Forever? We Should Cure Aging

The box is filled with vegetables that are still good to eat, but might look a little odd from the outside. They're being sold at a cheap price.WATCHLIST
ASDA

Store Hopes 'Wonky Veg Box' Will Reduce Waste Of Imperfect Vegetables

A little girl poses for a photograph next to a stranded sperm whaleWATCHLIST
Getty Images / Ben Pruchnie

Scientists Offer Theory As To What Killed 30 Sperm Whales

The CRAM (compressible robot with articulated mechanisms) from the PolyPEDAL Lab at UC Berkeley.WATCHLIST
University of California, Berkeley / PolyPEDAL Lab

Cockroach-Inspired Robot Can Squeeze Into Some Tight Spaces

A rare albino green sea turtle leaves its nest.WATCHLIST
Facebook / Coolum District Coast Care Group

Surprise! This Baby Green Turtle Isn't Green At All

Aedes aegypti mosquitos are seen in a lab at the Fiocruz institute on January 26, 2016 in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Mario Tama

The White House Is Asking For $1.8B To Counter The Zika Virus

A graphic of a coded message.WATCHLIST
Newsy

Your Brain Is A Decoding Machine; Give This Message A Try

small pool of water is surrounded by dried and cracked earth that was the bottom of the Almaden Reservoir on January 28, 2014 in San Jose, California.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Study Says Droughts In The Southwest Could Become More Frequent

A coniferous forest is shown on a mountainside.WATCHLIST
Giorgio Galeotti / CC BY 2.0

Some Trees Might Slow Climate Change Better Than Others

CocktailWATCHLIST
mariobonifacio / CC BY SA 2.0

People Who've Passed The Bar Are More Likely To Drink At The Bar

Various types of fentanyl patches are pictured.WATCHLIST
Alcibiades

Fentanyl Abuse, Overdoses On The Rise In New Hampshire

What Zika is — and what world health agencies are doing about it.WATCHLIST
Newsy / Evan Thomas

What Zika Virus Is — And Isn't

French grocery storeWATCHLIST
christine592 / CC BY ND 2.0

France Now Won't Let Its Grocery Stores Throw Away Unsold Food

LONDON - MARCH 05: A woman sits in her pod-bed dorm room at Piccadilly Backpackers on March 5, 2006 in London, England.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Scott Barbour

More Couples Aren't Sleeping Together, But Lost Love Isn't Always Why

Image of Johnny Cash and the tarantula species named after him.WATCHLIST
Joel Baldwin / Chris Hamilton et al.

There's A Tarantula Species Named After Johnny Cash

A scientist examines mosquitos.WATCHLIST
WFTX

Gulf Coast States React To Growing Cases Of Zika Virus

Medicine bottles charting the decline in new antibioticsWATCHLIST
Newsy / Andrew Lawler

Why Are There So Few New Antibiotics?

"El Jefe" is thought to be the only jaguar in the wild in the U.S.WATCHLIST
Conservation CATalyst and Center for Biological Diversity

The Only Known Wild Jaguar In The US Caught On Camera In Rare Video

Women walk their babies in the park.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Sean Gallup

Here's What People Are Saying About That New CDC Guideline

BearsWATCHLIST
Megan Coughlin / CC BY ND 2.0

New Deal Protects 85 Percent Of Canada's Massive Great Bear Rainforest

National Weather Service storm forecast.WATCHLIST
National Weather Service

Tornadoes Reported In Mississippi And Alabama

A mosquito is tested for Zika virus.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Mario Tama

First Case Of Sexually Transmitted Zika Virus Confirmed In US

Deodorant on display at a grocery store.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Your Deodorant May Be Messing With Your Body's Microbes

Man wears a Fitbit Charge HRWATCHLIST
Fitbit

This University Now Requires New Students To Wear Fitbits

Three different species of owls sit on display at Tori-no Iru Cafe on February 23, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Keith Tsuji

When Owls Bob Their Heads, They're Not Trying To Be Creepy