Pistol Star

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Pistol Star
Pistol star and nebula.jpg
False-color image of the Pistol Star and Pistol Nebula, taken by HST NICMOS.
Observation data
Epoch J2000      Equinox J2000
Constellation Sagittarius
Right ascension 17h 46m 15.3s[1]
Declination −28° 50′ 04″[1]
Apparent magnitude (V) invisible (4)
Spectral type B
Variable type LBV?
Mass 27.5[2] M
Radius 306[2] R
Luminosity 1,600,000[2] L
Temperature 11,800[2] K
Metallicity 3[3] Z☉
Age ≈4×106[4] years
Other designations
V4647 Sgr, qF 134
Database references

The Pistol Star is a blue hypergiant and is one of the most luminous known stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is one of many massive young stars in the Quintuplet cluster in the Galactic Center region. The star owes its name to the shape of the Pistol Nebula, which it illuminates. It is located approximately 25,000 light years from Earth in the direction of Sagittarius. It would be visible to the naked eye as a fourth magnitude star if it were not for the interstellar dust that completely hides it from view in visible light.


The Pistol Star was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in the early 1990s by Don Figer, Astronomer while at UCLA. The star is thought to have ejected almost 10 solar masses of material in giant outbursts perhaps 4,000 to 6,000 years ago (as observed from Earth). Its stellar wind is over 10 billion times stronger than the Sun's. Its exact age and future are not known, but it is expected to end in a brilliant supernova or hypernova in 1 to 3 million years. The mass is equally uncertain, thought to have been around 100 times the sun when initially formed but now considerably less due to extreme mass loss. [2] Early reports suggested that it might be the most luminous star known, being almost 100 million times as luminous as the Sun. Later studies, however, have reduced its estimated luminosity, making it a candidate luminous blue variable about one-third as luminous as the binary star system Eta Carinae.[5] Even so, it radiates about as much energy in 20 seconds as does the Sun in a year.

A close point source has been discovered hidden in the surrounding nebulosity, but there has been no confirmation of this being a star or whether it is physically associated.[6]

Luminous stars[edit]

Objects in this class have 80 to 150 times the mass of the Sun and lifetimes of only a few million years. Unlike ordinary stars, they are strongly affected by the outward pressure of the light that they emit, which blows off massive winds from their outer atmospheres. Besides the Pistol Star, several other objects have been cited as the "most luminous star" in recent years. Almost all of them have been demoted by later, improved studies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cutri, R. M.; Skrutskie, M. F.; Van Dyk, S.; Beichman, C. A.; Carpenter, J. M.; Chester, T.; Cambresy, L.; Evans, T.; Fowler, J.; Gizis, J.; Howard, E.; Huchra, J.; Jarrett, T.; Kopan, E. L.; Kirkpatrick, J. D.; Light, R. M.; Marsh, K. A.; McCallon, H.; Schneider, S.; Stiening, R.; Sykes, M.; Weinberg, M.; Wheaton, W. A.; Wheelock, S.; Zacarias, N. (2003). "VizieR Online Data Catalog: 2MASS All-Sky Catalog of Point Sources (Cutri+ 2003)". VizieR On-line Data Catalog: II/246. Originally published in: 2003yCat.2246....0C 2246: 0. Bibcode:2003yCat.2246....0C. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Najarro, F.; Figer, D. F.; Hillier, D. J.; Geballe, T. R.; Kudritzki, R. P. (2009). "Metallicity in the Galactic Center: The Quintuplet Cluster". The Astrophysical Journal 691 (2): 1816. arXiv:0809.3185. Bibcode:2009ApJ...691.1816N. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/691/2/1816.  edit
  3. ^ Yungelson, L. R.; Van Den Heuvel, E. P. J.; Vink, J. S.; Portegies Zwart, S. F.; De Koter, A. (2008). "On the evolution and fate of super-massive stars". Astronomy and Astrophysics 477: 223. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20078345.  edit
  4. ^ Liermann, A.; Hamann, W.-R.; Oskinova, L. M. (2012). "The Quintuplet cluster. III. Hertzsprung-Russell diagram and cluster age". Astronomy & Astrophysics 540: A14. arXiv:1203.2435. Bibcode:2012A&A...540A..14L. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201117534. 
  5. ^ Humphreys, R.; Stanek, K. (2005). "The Fate of the Most Massive Stars". The Fate of the Most Massive Stars 332. Bibcode:2005ASPC..332.....H. 
  6. ^ Martayan, C.; Blomme, R.; Le Bouquin, J. B.; Merand, A.; Montagnier, G.; Selman, F.; Girard, J.; Fox, A.; Baade, D.; Frémat, Y.; Lobel, A.; Martins, F.; Patru, F.; Rivinius, T.; Sana, H.; Štefl, S.; Zorec, J.; Semaan, T. (2011). "High-angular resolution observations of the Pistol star". Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 6: 616. doi:10.1017/S1743921311011574.  edit

External links[edit]