Exploring the Largest and Smallest Stars in Our Universe


| LAST UPDATE 10/02/2022

By Daria Appleby
largest smallest stars universe
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To us humans on Earth - as far as we know - the stars we gaze upon are minuscule. Yet, of course, science is always there to prove us wrong. Compared to a star, Earth dwarfs the rest of the stars in the sky. Acknowledging the perspective of how small we are compared to a star is unfathomable, yet, experts have managed to explain it as vividly as possible...

Astronomer at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, Phil Massey, has expressed that the size of any star depends on the "mass or the total volume." If we were to "zoom out to the far reaches of our galaxy," the sun is nowhere near as large as we think. So, when figuring out the size of "the most voluminous," this would often be substantially lighter than those remarkably large and a lot heavier. Like any tall human, being taller does not equate to a heavier mass. That being said, when stars become older and expand over billions of years, their mass reduces. 

Largest Smallest Star Universe
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The star to hold a record for the largest mass is R136a1, located about 160,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud. In technical yet simpler terms, it is 30 or 40 times the size of the sun. If there is a way to visualize a comparison in size, try placing a cherry next to a giant yoga ball, but that yoga ball is 200 times the size. While this star is only 1 million years old, it is relatively young compared to the sun, which is at least 4.5 billion years old. Massey further explained if the largest star depends on its diameter, a "number of contenders" are also taken into consideration e.g. the red hypergiant's diameter is "roughly 1,700 times that of the sun." Yet, any star size/diameter is continuously unreliable as they are "hard to model." To know exactly the density and diameter, scientists would need to know the amount of light produced, considering variables such as brightness and flickers over time. Both red supergiant stars and VY Canis Majoris (8.2 million years old) equally have diameters 1,500 times the sun. So, the sun is definitely not the brightest star in the sky, although we might think it is acting predominantly visible. The smallest star in the sky goes to EBLM J0555-57Ab, which is smaller than Saturn and classified as a "brown dwarf - a failed star."

When uncovering the size of the stars in our cosmic neighborhood, there is no definite way to determine the exact size and mass. As Massey theorized, "there's too much dust, there's too much interference with light." So, while we remain unaware of how large or small these stars are exactly, as time goes on, there is a chance of more information to be unveiled. Stay tuned.