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Key Facts & Information

  • R136a1 is the largest and brightest star that has been discovered in the entire universe. This star is also considered to be the hottest star. It can be found in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
  • A team of astronomers from Pretoria’s Redcliffe Observatory discovered R136a1 in 1960. They were observing the Tarantula Nebula when a central star got their attention.
  • The central star that they saw was named RMC 136.
  • In 1979, astronomers used ESO 3.6-metre telescope and saw that RMC 136 was composed of three stars, R136a, R136b, and R136c.
  • In 1985, astronomers named Weigelt and Beiber used a speckle interferometry and discovered that there were 8 stars and the brightest of those stars was R136a1.
  • When the Hubble Space telescope was launched in 1990, they came to the conclusion that RMC 136 was cluster of 200 very luminous stars.
  • In 2010, it was confirmed that R136a1 is the brightest star in this cluster. It has a  temperature of 53,000 K or about 10 times hotter than the Sun.

Distance – Location

  • R136a1 is located 163,000 light years away from the Earth or 50 kiloparsecs.
  • It can be considered as our neighbour because it is located in the Dorado constellation of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxy which is the Large Magellanic Cloud. This galaxy orbits our Milky Way.

Size – Mass – Luminosity

  • It is 35 times bigger than our Sun with a diameter of around 30 million miles / 48 million kilometres. It has a radius of around 15 million miles / 24 million kilometres.
  • It is 15 times more luminous than our Sun and its mass is 315 times more than the mass of the Sun. Because of this, around 4 billion Suns could fit inside R136a1.
  • It is so big that it radiates more energy in 5 seconds than the Sun in 1 year. It also loses a billion times more mass than the Sun in a year.
  • Its cluster has a magnitude of 7.25 and can be seen in the far southern celestial hemisphere.
  • There are many more stars in the cluster that have 100 times more mass than the Sun. R136a1 is the brightest of them and also 10 times hotter than our Sun.

Formation

  • R136a1 is only 1 million years old which makes it quite a young star. This can be explained because its location is an active star-forming location.
  • This star is predominantly made of hydrogen and helium. Because it is considered as a Wolf-Rayet star, it also has other heavy elements.

Classification

  • R136a1 is a very bright WN5h star. A Wolf-Rayet star is known as having strong and broad emission of lines that include ionized nitrogen, carbon, helium, oxygen and sometimes silicon.
  • The star is losing its mass at a speed of 3.21×10^28 kg/s. It is believed that it has already lost 50 of its solar masses due to the stellar wind.

Future

  • In the future, R136a1 will burn its fuel out quickly. It will either be a black hole or a neutron star after becoming a supernova. Due to its size, it will most likely be a black hole.

Did You Know?

  • R136a1 supplies 7% of ionizing flux of the entire 30 Doradus region.
  • R136a1’s dimensions are smaller than the largest stars which are the red supergiants. They are bigger but not as massive.
  • It has an average of 1% density of the Sun. It is also 10 times denser than the atmosphere of the Earth at sea-level.
  • Because the photosphere is hidden by the dense stellar wind, its rotation rate cannot be measured directly.
  • If R136a1 were to be placed in the location of our Sun in the Solar System, Earth would be destroyed in a day, while the other planets would be destroyed in a week.
  • If this star replaced our Sun, it woulf be 94,000 times brighter.