Bangladeshi astrophysicist Rubab Khan of NASA and his team has discovered five supersize stars in other galaxies using data from NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes.
These stars are similar to Eta Carinae – the most luminous and massive stellar system within 10,000 light years of Earth.
Rubab Khan, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Center in Maryland, announced the discovery at the American Astronomical Society’s annual meeting Wednesday, according to AP.
“The most massive stars are always rare, but they have tremendous impact on the chemical and physical evolution of their host galaxy,” said Rubab Khan.
“We knew others were out there,” said co-investigator Krzysztof Stanek, professor of astronomy at Ohio State University in Columbus. “It was really a matter of figuring out what to look for and of being persistent.”
Khan developed a kind of optical and infrared fingerprint for identifying possible Eta Carinae twins, or “Eta twins” for short.
In a follow-on survey in 2015, the team found two candidate Eta twins in the galaxy M83, located 15 million light-years away, and one each in NGC 6946, M101 and M51, located between 18 and 26 million light-years away.
These five objects mimic the optical and infrared properties of Eta Carinae, indicating that each very likely contains a high mass star buried in five to 10 solar masses of gas and dust.
The findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.