News Release Archive:

News Release 49 of 71

April 9, 1998 12:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-1998-16

Hubble Finds That Even Massive Stars Just Fade Away

April 9, 1998: Pinpointing the rapidly fading ember of a recently burned-out star, the Hubble telescope is giving astronomers a better estimate on just how big a star can be before it ultimately explodes as a supernova.

Based on Hubble's detection of a rare, young white dwarf star, astronomers conclude that its progenitor was a whopping 7.6 times the mass of our Sun. Previously, astronomers had estimated that stars anywhere from 6 to 10 solar masses would not just quietly fade away as white dwarfs, but abruptly self-destruct in torrential explosions. In this picture, Hubble can easily resolve the star [the white circle] in the crowded cluster and detect its intense blue-white glow from a sizzling surface temperature of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Credit: Rebecca Elson and Richard Sword, Cambridge UK, and NASA (Original WFPC2 image courtesy J. Westphal, Caltech)