An international team of astronomers has produced the first detailed images of the surface of a giant star outside our solar system.
The giant star, named π1Gruis, is one of the stars in the constellation Grus (Latin for the crane, a type of bird), which can be observed in the southern hemisphere. An evolved star in the last major phase of life, π1Gruis is 350 times larger than the Sun and resembles what our Sun will become at the end of its life in five billion years.
Above, an artist’s impression shows the red supergiant star. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer, an international team of astronomers have constructed the most detailed image ever of this, or any star other than the Sun.
π1Gruis is a nearly circular, dust-free atmosphere with complex areas of moving material, known as convection cells or granules, according to a recent study.
This is the giant star, π1Gruis. Credit ESO
Dr. Fabien Baron, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Georgia State University, said:
“This is the first time that we have such a giant star that is unambiguously imaged with that level of details. The reason is there’s a limit to the details we can see based on the size of the telescope used for the observations. For this paper, we used an interferometer. The light from several telescopes is combined to overcome the limit of each telescope, thus achieving a resolution equivalent to that of a much larger telescope.”