Science & Tech

Hypergiant star erupts

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Blasts nearly 10,000 times mass of Earth into space

In the year 2000, the star Rho Cassiopeiae, n the constellation of Cassiopeia, lost more mass than in any other stellar eruption observed by astronomers. An international team of astronomers, led by astrophysicist Alex Lobel of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, observed the huge eruption, which blasted nearly 10,000 times the mass of the Earth into space. During the outburst the star brightened briefly, then dimmed for a period of months. The initial brightening occurs when gases fall in towards the star and are compressed and heated. Then, that material blasts outward and the star dims. It is a dramatic process, comparable to jumping on a trampoline, where the atmosphere drops downward only to shoot upward again. The team advises that another eruption could take place at any time. Since Rho Cas is bright and visible all year to astronomers in the northern hemisphere, it can be seen easily even without a telescope. It is a promising target for amateur observers, who can monitor it for the next explosion and report their findings to the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams.