Universe Guide

Hyper, Super and Normal Giant Stars

Giant star Facts

What is a Giant Star?

Giant Stars including Supergiants and Hypergiants are stars that are larger in size compared to other stars of the same temperature. Giants are the smaller of the group followed by Super and then Hyper. Our Sun is actually classed as a dwarf star because it is much smaller than some of the giants out there. The Sun is more massive than 95% of stars in the cosmos and 75% of stars in the cosmos are red dwarf stars. Forbes

In terms of spectral types, they will tend to have 0a (Hyper), Ia (Luminous Supergiant), Ib (Less Luminous Supergiant), Iab (Intermediated Sized Supergiant), II (Bright Giants) and III (Normal Giants) in the code.

Our own star, the Sun is a dwarf star compared to the really big stars that exist. Going by the picture at the bottom, giant stars are say 10x bigger than our own sun such as Pollux, supergiant stars are 100x bigger than ours and hypergiants are 1000x and above. Its a simplistic explanation based on the picture below. Their colours can range from blue (e.g. Spica through yellow (e.g. Pollux) to red (Betelgeuse).

The bigger a star is, the shorter its lifespan is. Being a giant star is a disadvantage when it comes to living, giants such as those mentioned will die long before Dwarf Stars such as Proxima Centauri which is tiny compared to the real giants out there. If you want to continue the human race, you would look to move to a planet orbiting a dwarf star rather than a supergiant.

The centres of Galaxies aren't super massive giant stars, they are supermassive black holes. Although some galaxies are known to have a cluster of stars rather than a supermassive black hole. In the case of the the milky way, the galactic centre can be found in the constellation of Sagittarius and is imaginatively called simply Sagittarius A*.

Near the centre of our galaxy, there are a number of large stars, these include AH Scorpii. According to a Nature paper, there is an extraordinary cluster of massive stars near the centre of the Milky Way, yep, that's the title.

First Stars

The first stars that were created after the The Beginning of the universe were massive giant blue stars which lived fast and died young. The first stars in the universe would made mainly of supergiants or hypergiant stars that would as mentioned earlier, lived fast and died young.

When they died, they would have been recycled into newer stars. It is said our Sun is a third generation star which means there would have been two stars in this area before our Sun appeared. Elements on the periodic table heavier than iron can only be produced by the heat and energy of a supernova explosion. As they live and die and what gets born after will be smaller. 70% of all stars in the galaxy are in fact smaller stars so our Sun is one of the largest stars that is out there.

There is a theory that the supermassive black holes that are at the centres of galaxies are the black hole remnants of large giant stars. Although there is another theory where the supermassive black holes were created directly from a collapsing dust and gas cloud bypassing the stellar stage.

Difference between Most Massive and Largest Star

When people talk about the largest stars, they tend to refer to radius of the star, how many times the star is bigger than the Sun. The radius aren't precise and are scientists best calculations/guesses based on their observations. The stars are so far away which is why they are the best guess/estimations. Only by visiting a star will we ever know precisely just how large (radius) it is.

Massive stars are stars that are considered to have at least eight times more mass than the Sun. Mass is how much matter and weight it has compared to its size. UY Scuti might be the largest star, but its not the most massive. The most massive star that we know about is R136a1 and that has about 135 times the mass of our sun. Massive stars live fast, die young.

How Stars Grow (Blue Stragglers and End Of Life)

When a star has converted all its hydrogen into helium, the outward pressure on itself will beat the inward strength of gravity keeping it together. The outward strength will win and the star will grow in size. Our Sun will one day begin to grow in size and will expand to include the orbits of the gas giants of Jupiter before it ends in a supernova and turn into a white dwarf.

The good news is that there is still a long way to go before the Sun destroys the life on our planet. It is estimated that life on this planet has another billion years left, so still time to do the homework and get it marked. As the Sun grows, it will get hotter and the water will boil away but life will have gone before that. Stars like UY Scuti and Betelgeuse are super/hypergiant stars that are nearing the end of their lives. Betelgeuse is estimated to be getting ready to supernova in the next million years which might seem a long time but in astronomical scale of time, its soon.

Generally speaking, all the stars in a star cluster such as Omega Centauri are all the same age, they will all have come from the same source. Amongst the stars as such in Omega Centauri are blue stars, these stars will look larger, hotter, younger and bluer than other stars. The blue stars are vampire stars, stars that feed off other stars and therefore look younger. As they feed off the other stars, they grow larger than their surrounding stars. These stars are referred to as Blue Stragglers.

The Largest Stars

There is a discussion on-going as to what is the biggest star in the galaxy, we can only talk about the stars that have been observed. The current biggest is UY Scuti, a star in the Constellations of Scutum. If you research the internet, you will find that some sites will say that the biggest is VY Canis Majoris or NML Cygni in the constellation of Cygnus the Swan. These stars are measured in terms of solar radii, a radii of 1 is the same size as our Sun such as Rigil Kentaurus also known as Alpha Centauri. Anything less that 1 will indicate it is a smaller star. UY Scuti is estimated to be about 1,708 times the radius of our Sun. NML Cygni, another contender for the biggest star has a radius of between 1,642 and 2,775 times the Sun.

The current most massive known star outside the Milky Way is R136a1 which is a star in the NGC2070 Star Cluster in the Tarantula Galaxy in the constellation of Dorado. Its mass is once thought to have been more than 300x that of our own Sun and is far in excess of what astronomers had once thought was possible for a star. Over time, its mass is now calculated at being 265x our Suns mass. At that time, people thought a star could only be up to 150x the mass of our Sun. It is believed to be 10 million times brighter than our sun and has a temperature of 40,000 degrees Celsius on its surface. The star is more than 165,000 light years away. The light we see is what it looked like 165,000 years ago.

Exoplanets round Giant Stars

Although an exoplanet has not been spotted round the largest stars e.g. NML Cygni and UY Scuti. Planets have been spotted round Pollux, Hamal and Aldebaran for example. Pollux in the constellation of Gemini, the twins is a yellow supergiant because its many times larger than our Sun. It is harder to spot an exoplanet round a super or giant star because the influence on the star by the planet is less noticeable. Planets are easier to be spotted round smaller stas because they have a large influence on the star.

The Largest Yellow Supergiant

The largest supergiants such as UY SCUTI and NML Cygni tend to be red hypergiants which are end of the life stars when they've exhausted their hydrogen and are expanding near to their deaths. The star that currently holds the title of the largest yellow supergiant is HR 5171 in the constellation of Centaurus. Originally thought of as being a blue supergiant with a spectral type of A7V, the updated spectral type for the star as detailed in Simbad is G8Ia++B0Ibp making it a yellow giant star.

The Yellow Star has a companion star which according to E.S.O., the two stars are connected to one another. The two stars will one day merge into one star and there will be a catastrophic explosion. The star is reckoned to be about 1,300x the diameter of the Sun. It is in the top ten percent of largest stars in the galaxy. Phys

E.S.O. artists impression of HR-5171 Yellow Supergiant with its companion star.

Colours of Giant Stars

As you can see from the picture below, the giant stars tend to be blue or red. The hotter a star is, the more blue the star is. Stars like Spica is hotter than Betelgeuse which is a dying star and therefore more blue. A blue star will burn more fuel than a red star. You can infer from the below picture that Pollux, a yellow giant star is about the same size as Spica taking the line that joins the two stars. The stars colour is also determined by its mass, blue stars will have extremely high mass compared to other coloured stars. Star colours are not static, blue supergiants can turn in red supergiants during their lifetimes and vice versa.

Hertzsrung-Russel table showing Hypergiants compared to Dwarf Stars

The image is from NovaCelestia which the artist has said people can use so long as there's an acknowledgement of his copyright and a link back to his site.

Red Super and Hypergiant Stars

These goliaths of stars are the biggest and coolest stars in the universe. They share the same spectral type of 'M' as dwarf stars and are cool like their dwarfen cousins but that's all. These stars tend to be at the ends of their lives which one day they will explode in a supernova.

Names of Red Giant, Super and Hyper Giant Stars

Orange Super and Hypergiant Stars

These are a little hotter but not much in the sphere of things. They will have a spectral type of K.

Names of Orange Giant, Super and Hyper Giant Stars

Names of Example Blue Giant, Super and Hyper Giants

Blue stars are the hottest stars in the universe. These stars tend to be young and not live long. The first stars in the universe are believed to be blue hypergiants and all have exploded now.

Names of Blue Giant, Super and Hyper Giant Stars

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