List of most luminous stars

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Below is a list of stars arranged in order of decreasing luminosity (increasing bolometric magnitude). Accurate measurement of stellar luminosities is quite difficult in practice, even when the apparent magnitude is measured accurately, for four reasons:

  1. The distance d to the star must be known, to convert apparent to absolute magnitude. Absolute magnitude is the apparent magnitude a star would have if it were 10 parsecs away from the viewer. Since apparent brightness decreases as the square of the distance (i.e. as 1/d2), a small error (e.g. 10%) in determining d implies an error ~2× as large (thus 20%) in luminosity. Stellar distances are only directly measured accurately out to d ~1000 lt-yrs.
  2. The observed magnitudes must be corrected for the absorption or extinction of intervening interstellar or circumstellar dust and gas. This correction can be enormous and difficult to determine precisely. For example, until accurate infrared observations became possible ~50 years ago, the Galactic Center of the Milky Way was totally obscured to visual observations.
  3. The magnitudes at the wavelengths measured must be corrected for those not observed. "Absolute bolometric magnitude" (which term is redundant, practically speaking, since bolometric magnitudes are nearly always "absolute", i.e. corrected for distance) is a measure of the star's luminosity, summing over its emission at all wavelengths, and thus the total amount of energy radiated by a star every second. Bolometric magnitudes can only be estimated by correcting for unobserved portions of the spectrum that have to be modeled, which is always an issue, and often a large correction. The list is dominated by hot blue stars which produce the majority of their energy output in the ultraviolet, but these may not necessarily be the brightest stars at visual wavelengths.
  4. A large proportion of stellar systems discovered with very high luminosity have later been found to be binary. Usually this results in the total system luminosity being reduced and then that lower luminosity is spread among several components. These binaries are common both because the conditions that produce high mass high luminosity stars also favour multiple star systems, but also because searches for highly luminous stars are inevitably biased towards detecting systems with multiple more normal stars combining to appear luminous.

Because of all these problems, other references may give very different lists of the most luminous stars (different ordering or different stars altogether). Data on different stars can be of somewhat different reliability, depending on the attention one particular star has received as well as largely differing physical difficulties in analysis (see the Pistol Star for an example). The last stars in the list are familiar nearby stars put there for comparison, and not among the most luminous known. It may also interest the reader to know that the Sun is more luminous than approximately 95% of all known stars in the local neighborhood (out to, say, a few hundred light years), due to enormous numbers of somewhat less massive stars that are cooler and often much less luminous. For perspective, the overall range of stellar luminosities runs from dwarfs less than 1/10,000th as luminous as the Sun, to supergiants over 1,000,000 times more luminous.

Data[edit]

This list is currently limited mostly to galactic and Magellanic Cloud objects, but a few stars in other local group galaxies can now be examined in enough detail to determine the luminosities. As of mid-2012 the list is more or less complete for stars down to 1,000,000 times the luminosity of the Sun. Some suspected binaries in this magnitude range are excluded because there is insufficient information about the luminosity of the individual components. Selected fainter stars are also shown for comparison.

Despite their extreme luminosity, many of these stars are nevertheless too distant to be observed with the naked eye. Stars that are at least sometimes visible to the unaided eye have their apparent magnitude (6.5 or brighter) highlighted in blue.

Star name Bolometric
luminosity
(in solar units)
Absolute
bolometric
magnitude
Approx. distance
from solar system
(in light years)
Apparent
visible magnitude
Effective
temperature (K)
R136a1 (in LMC) 8710000 −12.5 163000 12.23 53000±3000
Melnick 34 (BAT99-116 in LMC)[a] 7079000 −11.9[1] 160000 13.10 53000
M33-013406.63 (in Triangulum Galaxy) 640000010280000 −12.2 to −12.7[2] 23800003070000 16.1
WR 25 (in Carina Nebula)[b] 6300000 −12.16[3] 7500 8.80 50100 / ?
NGC 2363-V1[c] 6300000 −12.16[4][5] 11100000 17.88 1300026000
R136c (in LMC) 5623000 −12.0 160000 12.86 51000
Eta Carinae (in Carina Nebula)[d] 5000000 −12.0[6] 7500 −0.8 to 7.9[7] 37200
BAT99-98 (AB12 in LMC) 5000000 −12.0[8] 165000 13.70 45000
G0.238-0.071 5000000 −12.0[9] 26000
HD 38282 (R144 in LMC)[e] 4500000 −11.9[10] 160000 11.11 47000
R136a2 (in LMC) 4266000 −11.7 160000 12.34 53000
V4998 Sagittarii (near Quintuplet Cluster) 4000000 −11.7[11] 25000 12000
R136a3 (in LMC) 3802000 −11.6 160000 12.97 53000
R136a6 (in LMC) 3311000 −11.5 165000 13.35
G0.070+0.025 3300000 −11.5[9] 26000
Var A-1 (in M31) 3200000 −11.5[12] 2450000
Peony Star (WR 102ka) 3200000 −11.5 26100
VFTS 682 (in LMC) 3200000 −11.5 160000 16.1
WR 42e 3200000 −11.5[13][f] 25000 14.53
BAT99-33 (R99 in LMC) 3200000 −11.4[8] 160000 11.45
LSS 4067 3000000 −11.4[14] 8200 11.64
NGC 3603-B 2900000 −11.3[1] 24000 11.33
G0.059-0.068 2880000 −11.4[9] 26000
R136a4 (in LMC) 2884000 −11.3 160000 13.96
WR 102hb 2600000 −11.3[15] 26000
AFGL 2298[g] 2500000 −11.25[4] 33000
Melnick 42 (in LMC) 2500000 −11.25 160000 12.8
WR 102ea 2500000 −11.25[15] 26000
WR 85 2500000 −11.25[3] 15300 10.03
BAT99-117 (R146 in LMC) 2500000 −11.2[8] 160000 13.116
NGC 3603-A1a 2500000 −11.2[1] 24000 11.18 (combined A1a + A1b)
LHO 146 2500000 −11.2 26000 8.7
Var 83 (in M33) 2240000 −11.1[16] 3000000 16.40
WR 158 2200000 −11.1[3] 26000 11.24
Arches-F6 2300000 −11.1 25000
Arches-F9 2300000 −11.1 25000
HD 5980A[h] (in SMC) 2200000 −11.1[17] 200000 11.7
WR 24 (in Carina Nebula) 2200000 −11.1[3] 8200 6.48
HD 269810 (in LMC) 2200000 −11.1[18] 170000 12.28
Cygnus OB2 #516 2200000 −11.1 5000
BAT99-96 (in LMC) 2200000 −11.1[8] 160000 13.76
G0.058+0.014 2140000 −11.1[9] 26000
R136a5 (in LMC) 2089000 −11.0 165000 13.71
LBV 1806-20 2000000 −11.0 38700
Arches-F4 2000000 −11.0 25000
WR 82 2000000 −11.0[3] 17200 11.55
WR 131 2000000 −11.0[3] 38600 12.08
WR 147[i] 2000000 −11.0[3] 2100 14.89
Arches-F7 2000000 −11.0 25000
Arches-F1 2000000 −11.0 25000
WR 22 A (V429 Carinae; in Carina Nebula) 2000000 −11.0 8200 6.42
R136b (in LMC) 1995000 −11.0 165000 13.24
G0.114+0.021 1950000 −11.0[9] 26000
R136a8 (in LMC) 1905000 −10.9 165000 14.42
Cygnus OB2 #12 1900000 −10.9[19] 5000 11.4
WR 31a 1820000 −10.9 26000 10.85
Wray 17-96 1800000 −10.9[20] 15000 17.8
V2180 Cygni (=WR 130) 1800000 −10.9[3] 8800 12.14
HD 5980B (in SMC) 1800000 −10.9[17] 200000 11.9
V4650 Sagittarii 1800000 −10.9[21] 25000
VFTS 506 (in LMC) 1750000 −10.9[22] 160000 13.31
VFTS 16 (LMC) 1700000 −10.8[22] 160000 13.55
Cygnus OB2-#7 1700000 −10.8 5000 12.7
BAT99-122 (R147 in LMC) 1700000 −10.7[8] 160000 12.75
Arches-F12 1600000 −10.8 25000
AF Andromedae (in M31) 1600000 −10.8[16] 2500000
LHO 110 1600000 −10.8[15] 26000
WR 12 (V378 Velorum) 1600000 −10.75[3] 16500 10.78
Pistol Star 1600000 −10.75 25000
WR 78 1600000 −10.75[3] 6500 6.49
WR 89 1600000 −10.75[3] 9400 11.02
WR 107 1600000 −10.75[3] 13400 14.1
WR 148 1600000 −10.75[3] 27100 10.3
HD 93129A (in Carina Nebula)[j] 1500000 −11.25 7500 7.310
WR 102i 1500000 −10.7[15] 26000
NGC 3603-A1b 1500000 −10.6[1] 24000 11.18 (combined A1a + A1b)
VFTS 621 (in LMC) 1400000 −10.6[22] 160000 15.39
Arches-F15 1400000 −10.6 25000
LHO 100 1400000 −10.6 26000 9.4
AB8A (in SMC) 1400000 −10.6[17] 200000 12.9 (combined)
V396 Carinae (WR 16) 1400000 −10.6[3] 5000 8.34
WR 108 1400000 −10.6[3] 18300 9.89
WR 66 1400000 −10.6[3] 10700 11.34
Cygnus OB2 #771 1400000 −10.6 5000
R126 (in LMC) 1400000 −10.6 160000 10.91
V729 Cygni A 1400000 −10.6 5000
BAT99-100 (R134 in LMC) 1400000 −10.5[8] 160000 12.02
Tr 27-27 1350000 −10.5[14] 8200  
WR 87 1300000 −10.5[3] 9400 11.95
Arches-F3 1300000 −10.5 25000
Arches-F8 1300000 −10.5 25000
R139 A (in LMC) 1300000 −10.5[23] 160000 12.0 (combined)
V729 Cygni B 1300000 −10.5 5000
HD 50064 1300000 −10.5[24] 9500 8.21
VFTS 259 (in LMC) 1250000 −10.5[22] 160000 13.65
WR 102d[15] 1200000 −10.4 26000 10.5
LHO 77 1200000 −10.4 26000 9.6
AB7A 1200000 −10.4 197000 13.016
Arches-F28 1200000 −10.4 25000
G0.121-0.099 1150000 −10.4[9] 26000
BAT99-104 (in LMC) 1100000 −10.4[8] 160000 12.5
V385 Carinae (WR 40; in Carina Nebula) 1100000 −10.4[3] 7400 7.85
V1402 Aquilae (=WR 123) 1100000 −10.4[3] 19500 11.1
Arches-F18 1100000 −10.4 25000
Cygnus OB2-#8B 1100000 −10.4 5000 12.7
Cygnus OB2-#10 1100000 −10.4 5000 12.7
Cygnus OB2-#22 1100000 −10.4 5000 12.7
Var B (in M33) 1100000 −10.4[16] 3000000  
HD 93403A 1050000 10000 7.3
68 Cygni A 1050000 −10.3[25] 4600 4.98 to 5.09
HD 93250 (in Carina Nebula) 1038978 −10.3[14] 7500 7.50
BAT99-94 (R135 in LMC) 1000000 −10.3[26] 160000 14.52
AG Carinae 1000000 −10.3[27] 6000 5.7 to 9.0
Arches-F2 1000000 −10.25 25000
BAT99-68 (in LMC) 1000000 −10.25[8] 160000 12.4
Arches-F14 1000000 −10.25 25000
V460 Scuti (=WR 116) 1000000 −10.25[3] 8100 13.38
WR 124 (QR Sagittae) 1000000 −10.25[3] 11000 11.5
S Doradus (in LMC) 1000000 −10.25 169000 8.6 to 11.5 (B)
The following naked-eye stars are listed for the purpose of comparison.
P Cygni 610000 −9.7 5900 4.8 18700
RW Cephei 550000625000 −9.11 11500 6.52 4015
ζ Pup 550000800000 −9.0 1090 2.21 4000044000
Rho Cassiopeiae ~500000 −9.6 12000 4.1 to 6.2 57777200
Alnilam 389000832000 −9.2 1300 1.70 27000
μ Cep (the Garnet Star) 283000 −9.08 1900 4.04 3750
VY Canis Majoris ~270000 −9.4[28] 4900 6.5 to 9.6 3490±90
Plaskett's star A 224000 −8.6 6600 6.06 (A + B) 33500±2000
Theta1 Orionis C 204000 −8.6 1500 5.13 39000±1000
VV Cephei A 200000 −9.0 2400 4.91 3826
Deneb 196000 −8.38[29] 2600 1.25 8525±75
Betelgeuse 126000 −8.00[30] 643 0.58 3590
Rigel 120000 −7.84 860 0.12 12100±150
Antares 57500 −7.2 600 0.92 3400±200
Canopus 15100 −5.53 310 −0.74 6998
Bellatrix 9211 −2.64 250 1.64 6998
Polaris Aa 1260 −3.6 433 1.97 6015
Aldebaran 518 −0.63 65 0.85 3910
Arcturus 170 −0.31 37 −0.04 4286±30
Capella Aa 78.7 0.4 42 0.08 4970±50
Vega 40.12 0.58 25 0.00 9602±180
Sirius A 25.4 1.4 8.6 −1.46 9940
Alpha Centauri A 1.519 4.38 4.4 −0.01 5790
Sun (Sol) 1.00 4.83 0 −26.74 5772
  1. ^ Suspected as binary from extreme X-ray luminosity and variable radial velocity.
  2. ^ 208-day binary
  3. ^ Luminous Blue Variable in external galaxy NGC 2363, that appears to be undergoing a "great outburst" like Eta Carinae but less luminous.
  4. ^ Identified as a binary system, or possibly three stars. The secondary is also luminous at around 1,000,000 times the Sun, but almost completely swamped by the primary.
  5. ^ Binary system containing two luminous WNh stars.
  6. ^ The paper mistakenly lists the blometric magnitude as −10.5 insead of −11.5.
  7. ^ Luminous Blue Variable, peak luminosity shown.
  8. ^ Variable, luminosity was five times higher at outburst in 1994.
  9. ^ This is a binary system but the secondary is much less luminous than the primary
  10. ^ This is a known binary with two fairly similar components, but the exact details of each star are not clear. Although the luminosity of the two combined is around 2,500,000, the primary is most likely nearer 1,500,000 and the secondary about 1,000,000.

Note that even the most luminous stars are much less luminous than the more luminous persistent extragalactic objects, such as quasars. For example, 3C 273 has an average apparent magnitude of 12.8 (when observing with a telescope), but an absolute magnitude of −26.7. If this object were 10 parsecs away from Earth it would appear nearly as bright in the sky as the Sun (apparent magnitude −26.74). This quasar's luminosity is, therefore, about 2 trillion (1012) times that of the Sun, or about 100 times that of the total light of average large galaxies like our Milky Way. (Note that quasars often vary somewhat in luminosity.)

In terms of gamma rays, a magnetar (type of neutron star) called SGR 1806-20, had an extreme burst reach Earth on 27 December 2004. It was the brightest event known to have impacted this planet from an origin outside the Solar System; if these gamma rays were visible, with an absolute magnitude of approx. −29, it would be brighter than the Sun (as measured by the Swift spacecraft).

The Gamma-ray burst GRB 971214 measured in 1998 was at the time thought to be the most energetic event in the observable universe, with the equivalent energy of several hundred supernovae. Later studies pointed out that the energy was probably the energy of one supernova which had been "beamed" towards Earth by the geometry of a relativistic jet.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]