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Posted 3/10/2005 4:01 PM     Updated 3/10/2005 5:37 PM
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Hubble shows stars have weight limit
Stars appear to have a weight limit, a Hubble Space Telescope study shows.

Stars seem to max out at about 150 times the mass of our sun. Astronomer Don Figer of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore examined a cluster of stars in our own Milky Way galaxy to make the conclusion.

Massive clusters previously were thought to have massive stars, but Figer's study found a cutoff point. The finding was published in today's issue of Nature.

It's still not clear why big stars have a weight constraint, but they're spectacular, said astrophysics expert Stanford Woosley of the University of California at Santa Cruz. "They live short, extravagant lives and go out with a big bang," he said.

Mass isn't the same as size; a light star sometimes is larger than a dense, small one.

If one of these massive stars was at the center of our solar system, it would appear 25 times as big as the sun and very, very bright, Woosley said. "The Earth would boil and be vaporized," he said.

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