SPIRE spectrum of VY Canis Majoris

Nhsc_nhsc2009-021a_1024

nhsc_nhsc2009-021a November 27th, 2009

Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

This is one of the early spectra obtained with the SPIRE fourier transform spectrometer on Herschel. Shown here is a portion of the SPIRE spectrum of VY Canis Majoris (VY CMa), a red supergiant star near the end of its life, which is ejecting huge quantities of gas and dust into interstellar space. The inset is a SPIRE camera map of VY CMa, in which it appears as a bright compact source near the edge of a large extended cloud.

The VY CMa spectrum is amazingly rich, with prominent features from carbon monoxide (CO) and water (H2O). More than 200 other spectral features have been identified so far in the full spectrum, and several unidentified features are being investigated. Many of the features are due to water, showing that the star is surrounded by large quantities of hot steam. Observations like these will help to establish a detailed picture of the mass loss from stars and the complex chemistry occurring in their extended envelopes. As in all of the SPIRE spectra, the underlying emission increases towards shorter wavelengths, and is due to the emission from dust grains. The shape of the dust spectrum provides information on the properties of the dust.

VY Canis Majoris (VY CMa) is a red supergiant star located about 4900 light years from Earth in the constellation Canis Major. It is the largest known star, with a size of 2600 solar radii, and also one of the most luminous, with a luminosity in excess of 100 000 times that of the Sun. The mass of VY CMa lies in the range 30-40 solar masses, and it has a mass-loss rate of 2x10-4 solar masses per year.

The shell of gas it has ejected displays a complex structure; the circumstellar envelope is among the most remarkable chemical laboratories known in the Universe, creating a rich set of organic and inorganic molecules and dust species. Through stellar winds, these inorganic and organic compounds are injected into the interstellar medium, from which new stars orbited by new planets may form. Most of the carbon supporting life on Earth was forged by this kind of evolved star. VY CMa truly is a spectacular object, it is close to the end of its life and could explode as a supernova at any time.

This SPIRE FTS observation was carried out as part of the performance verification of the observatory. The scientific rights of this observation are owned by the MESS Key Programme consortium led by M. Groenewegen.

Provider: Herschel Space Observatory

Image Source: https://www.herschel.caltech.edu/image/nhsc2009-021a

Curator: NASA Herschel Science Center, Pasadena, CA, USA

Image Use Policy: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/imagepolicy/

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Image Details

Image Type
Chart
Object Name
VY Canis Majoris VY CMa
Subject - Milky Way
Star > Evolutionary Stage > Red Supergiant

Distance

Universescale1
4,900 light years
Nhsc_nhsc2009-021a_1280
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ID
nhsc2009-021a
Subject Category
B.3.1.5  
Subject Name
VY Canis Majoris, VY CMa
Credits
ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech
Release Date
2009-11-27
Lightyears
4,900
Redshift
4,900
Reference Url
https://www.herschel.caltech.edu/image/nhsc2009-021a
Type
Chart
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Instrument
Color Assignment
Band
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
Equinox
Reference Value
Reference Dimension
Reference Pixel
Scale
Rotation
Coordinate System Projection:
Quality
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
NASA Herschel Science Center
URL
http://www.herschel.caltech.edu/
Name
Email
Telephone
Address
1200 E. California Blvd.
City
Pasadena
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
91125
Country
USA
Rights
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/imagepolicy/
Publisher
Publisher ID
nhsc
Resource ID
Metadata Date
2018-06-21T00:14:46Z
Metadata Version
1.2
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

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Universescalefull
4,900 light years