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Supergiant and Hypergiant Stars Compared to our Solar System:

January 4, 2014 Alien Stars and Exoplanets 2597
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Blue supergiant via NASA

Blue supergiant via NASA

The universe is filled with enormous planets that make the Earth seem like nothing more than a speck of sand on a mountain. We don’t even need to leave our solar system in order to find the behemoths that put our planet to shame. Take Jupiter, for example. This gas giant has 63 moons, some of which are larger than the other planets in the solar system (like the moon Ganymede, which is larger than the planet Mercury). Similarly, the Great Red Spot (Jupiter’s largest storm system) could swallow Earth twice over, while over 1,300 Earths could easily fit inside the planet itself.

To put it mildly, Jupiter is truly enormous. But of course, Jupiter isn’t the reigning king of the solar system. Obviously, that title goes to our star–you could fit 1.3 million Earths inside the Sun. That may sound impressive, but (unsurprisingly) there are many stars that dwarf our Sun. In fact, there are stars that dwarf  nearly our entire solar system….like Blue Supergiants.

Size comparison between sun and the blue giant star Rigel(beta Ori), which is approx. 60 times bigger than the sun. via CWitte

Size comparison between sun and the blue giant star Rigel(beta Ori), which is approx. 60 times bigger than the sun. via CWitte

To begin with, the terms “hypergiant” and “supergiant” are both a bit general. For the most part, these terms are loosely used to refer to the largest and most luminous (brightest and thus most energetic) stars in the universe. The exact term that one should use depends on the specific star that one is discussing (its size and luminosity). There are yellow hypergiants, red supergiants, blue supergiants etc.). You don’t need all the specifications about where all the cutoff points are. For now, it suffices to say that the coolest stars are red stars, the hottest stars are blue, “supers” are  a tad more luminous than “hypers,” and hyper stars are the largest (regardless, hypers and supers are both amazingly large).

This means that blue supergiants are altogether impressive. Though they are not the largest known stars, these are the  brightest and most energetic. They can have luminosities anywhere from about 10,000 to a million times that of the Sun. There surface temperatures fall somewhere between 10,000–50,000 K. For comparison, the surface of our own Sun is a mere 5,700 K, so if a blue supergiant replaced our Sun, all life would be scorched from the surface of the Earth.

And as the name indicates, these stars are huge…super huge. Rigel is probably the best known blue supergiant. It is located in the constellation Orion and has about 20 times the mass of the Sun. It puts out about 60,000 times as much energy, and is 60 times bigger than our star. And there are stars that are far more impressive. Blue supergiants can reach sizes 1,000 times larger than the Sun. This means that, if one were in the center of our solar system, it would almost be wide enough to span Jupiter’s orbit (in essence, it would eat nearly our entire solar system).

If you think that these stars are impressive, then you will really be blown away by red hyperegiants. These are the largest known stars. NML Cygni is one of the largest that we’ve discovered. It has a radius about 1,650 times the Sun’s. If it were placed at the center of our Solar System, its surface would extend beyond the orbit of Jupiter and fill over half of the gap that exists between Jupiter and Saturn’s orbit. So say goodbye to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and all of their various moons. And this doesn’t even take into account the amazing solar storms that would emanate from this beast. If we were to consider all the stellar activity, few things in our solar system would have a chance of survival.

NML Cygni courtsey of Astro Explorer

NML Cygni courtsey of Astro Explorer

In the end, there are a number of stars that are larger and brighter than our own middling Sun; however, I still think that our’s is a tad more impressive. So far, our star is the only star–and our planet the only planet–that we know of that have given rise to life. And I think that makes them rather awesome.

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128 Comments

  1. Brandon Bowers January 4, 2014 at 5:01 pm -

    AWESOME

    Reply
  2. Brad Madiuk January 4, 2014 at 5:02 pm -

    Massive…

    Reply
  3. Angie Byers Conway January 4, 2014 at 5:03 pm -

    Really Awesome!!

    Reply
  4. Cloud Hamaki January 4, 2014 at 5:04 pm -

    M.O.S.. (Mother of Stars)!

    Reply
  5. Dougie Knight January 4, 2014 at 5:05 pm -

    Whoa!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  6. Nick Payne January 4, 2014 at 5:05 pm -

    Almost too huge to comprehend.

    Reply
    • Άγγελοι Κιούπιντ January 4, 2014 at 5:20 pm -

      Humans have 7 Layers of Skins .. The Skies have 7 Layers of Atmospheres .. The Earth have 7 Layers of Soils .. So does the Heavens .. but there are More than we will ever Know .. Beyond our Own Comprehension .. Secrets of Heavens will never be Reveal to Human Beings .. Will always remain a Mystery till the End of Time .. “” ;)

      Reply
    • Sarvexcie Luvekueh Pinon January 4, 2014 at 5:37 pm -

      woahh.. (y)

      Reply
  7. Anth SuperdadTwenty Fleming January 4, 2014 at 5:06 pm -

    I’ve seen bigger ;)

    Reply
  8. Andrea Piuma January 4, 2014 at 5:07 pm -

    i want one, but a little smaller

    Reply
  9. Hargie Curato January 4, 2014 at 5:10 pm -

    -tnx for the info again FQTQ

    Reply
  10. John Ragaji January 4, 2014 at 5:11 pm -

    I have seen chicks bigger than our sun..

    Reply
  11. From Quarks to Quasars January 4, 2014 at 5:11 pm -

    These aren’t the largest stars either. There are more images etc. in the link provided.

    Confound Facebook for only allowing us to use one image!

    Reply
  12. Gordon Welsh January 4, 2014 at 5:16 pm -

    We are just a grain of sand in the Universe . There is more stars in the Universe than grains of sand all the Beaches in our Word !!

    Reply
    • Robert Malit January 4, 2014 at 5:29 pm -

      just stop it white guy please

      Reply
    • Gordon Welsh January 4, 2014 at 6:14 pm -

      Robert Malit what you mean WHIGHT GUY PLEASE ??
      Are you a Resist ??

      Reply
    • Piesces Amethyst January 4, 2014 at 8:42 pm -

      Uve got a point Mr.Gordon Welsh!

      Reply
    • Robert Malit January 5, 2014 at 4:22 am -

      you are being sentimental…everytime there is a post on space, this starts

      Reply
  13. Holland Cole-jones January 4, 2014 at 5:17 pm -

    Mikey Heath

    Reply
  14. Trent McLain January 4, 2014 at 5:17 pm -

    If it has a solar system, vaguely similar to ours, how big would the furthest planet’s orbit be?

    Reply
  15. Thorlak Olafsson January 4, 2014 at 5:21 pm -

    If a SR-71 Blackbird did a trip around VY Canis Majoris’ ecuator line, at it’s top speed (3676km/hr) it would take nearly 90 years, only to finish one trip

    Reply
    • Michael Charlong January 4, 2014 at 5:27 pm -

      1100 years actually.

      Reply
      • Boss January 4, 2014 at 8:32 pm -

        *1190

        Reply
    • Thorlak Olafsson January 4, 2014 at 5:32 pm -

      1100 years at 900 km/hr, not at 3676

      Reply
    • Marco Mendizabal January 4, 2014 at 5:33 pm -

      90 years lmao your way off.

      Reply
    • Tim Fu Zius January 4, 2014 at 5:43 pm -

      Explain how someone can calculate the equatorline of such far away monster

      Reply
      • Alessandro January 5, 2014 at 6:09 am -

        With Maths.

        Reply
    • Fred Herman January 4, 2014 at 5:44 pm -

      Would make a nice looking starship, too.

      Reply
    • Άγγελοι Κιούπιντ January 4, 2014 at 5:53 pm -

      It would Only requires 1 second to circle the “” Blue Supergiant Stars”” by the Arch Angels .. ;)

      Reply
    • From Quarks to Quasars January 4, 2014 at 5:57 pm -

      I think it would take 7 to 9 months to travel around the Sun using a jet (can’t remember the exact timescale), but either way, the airline food would kill you in a few days.

      Reply
    • Άγγελοι Κιούπιντ January 4, 2014 at 6:02 pm -

      I fly planes .. Airline foods taste much better nowadays .. in the future I believe Space Traveling would not require to consume foods while traveling anymore ( as being developed now R & D ) .. by using the “” Magic Vitamins Capsules “” to sustain Life while traveling in Space . ;)

      Reply
    • Tim Fu Zius January 4, 2014 at 6:12 pm -

      Ison did it halfway around our sun in about a few hours. So why 90 years with the fullspeed of a blackbird?? Couldn’t imagine this… too surreal for my mind

      Reply
      • Dig January 4, 2014 at 9:00 pm -

        Because of Kepler’s laws wich describe the orbits of such bodies. The one we need here basically goes like this:
        Imagine a line from the orbiting body to the sun. In a set time this line crosses over a certain area. The size of this area is always the same in the same amount of time.
        But now you have to consider that the orbits of comets are highly elliptical. This means to go over the same area when near the sun the comet has to be incredibly fast, while it’s incredibly slow when it’s far far away from the sun.
        Planets don’t have such elliptical orbits, they’re still elliptical but most of them are pretty close to circles, so their velocity is pretty much always the same. And Planets far away from their suns always need longer for one trip around then those nearer.

        Reply
    • From Quarks to Quasars January 4, 2014 at 6:20 pm -

      Tim, it is a bit easier to imagine when one considers that these stars span half of our solar system.

      Reply
      • Pooty Mack January 4, 2014 at 8:19 pm -

        Also, Ison was an inorganic chunk of ice and rock, not a man-made craft. The comet could more easily adapt to the G-forces of being sling-shot around other celestial bodies.

        Reply
    • Άγγελοι Κιούπιντ January 4, 2014 at 6:20 pm -

      SR-71 Black Bird is already in the Museum .. HL-20 and the Aurora has replace it .. with a greater thrust applying the M-150 DU fuel .. This is still would be incapable of circling the Blue Supergiant Stars within quick time lapse .

      Reply
    • Carljohn Lopez January 4, 2014 at 7:04 pm -

      only?

      Reply
    • Tim Fu Zius January 4, 2014 at 7:06 pm -

      Just got an idea… from our point of view our idea of an uni- or multiverse seems to expand and it seems like the wider we look the more gigantic is the mass of a new explored star.

      Reply
    • Giwrgos Xacktivist January 4, 2014 at 8:13 pm -

      Why the fuck would an SR-71 make a trip around VY canis majoris?

      Reply
    • From Quarks to Quasars January 4, 2014 at 9:41 pm -

      Giwrgos,

      For science!

      Reply
    • Zack Lilly January 4, 2014 at 10:26 pm -

      lmfao, you’re way off, more like 150.

      Reply
    • Michael Charlong January 4, 2014 at 11:10 pm -

      A commercial jetliner would need 1100 years to circle Canis Majoris. Look it up.

      Reply
    • Άγγελοι Κιούπιντ January 4, 2014 at 11:23 pm -

      @ Michael Charlong : that would still be inaccurate .. it was only a Theory . ;) Everything is just a Theory .. until it is solidly proven . ;)

      Reply
    • Jamison Ryun January 5, 2014 at 12:49 am -

      did you calculate the time that it takes for it to slow down to refuel each time and then to speed back up to top speed???

      Reply
    • Άγγελοι Κιούπιντ January 5, 2014 at 1:09 am -

      Good point .. Jamison .. I rather calculate how many human beings is being Born and Die every second in this World .. :P and Not knowing where the Next Destination would be .

      Reply
    • Άγγελοι Κιούπιντ January 5, 2014 at 1:09 am -

      Good point .. Jamison .. I rather calculate how many human beings is being Born and Die every second in this World .. :P and Not knowing where the Next Destination would be .

      Reply
    • Elliot Shields January 5, 2014 at 3:37 am -

      Lockheed Martin is developing the SR-72, a plane capable of travelling twice the maximum speed of the SR-71. So would that mean that by the time humans begin to colonise space (hopefully in my lifetime), circling the sun will take only a matter of hours in a manned aircraft?

      Reply
    • From Quarks to Quasars January 5, 2014 at 4:28 am -

      Jamison, maybe another ship could match it’s speed, so it doesn’t need to slow down? Probably not. But then, all of humanity would be dead by the time we got to Canis Majoris.

      Canis Majoris is 3,900 light-years away.
      That is about 22.8 trillion miles
      The SR 71 travels 2,200 mph
      That is 19 million miles a year

      Which means it would take us about 1.2 million years to reach Canis Majoris. So we might want to consider hitching a ride on a faster ship.

      Reply
    • Brutus Maximus Harperius January 5, 2014 at 7:20 am -

      …nerds!

      Reply
    • Brutus Maximus Harperius January 5, 2014 at 7:20 am -

      I respect ya though :)

      Reply
    • Dave Fleming January 5, 2014 at 7:36 am -

      thought it was further than 22.8 trillion miles to proxima centauri

      Reply
  16. Cloud Hamaki January 4, 2014 at 5:21 pm -

    Those stars spread randomly with unimaginably number within the galaxy or giant nebulae, which become the fuels that make the universe go expand, like a hot baloon.. So, the question is; where this ‘baloon’ takes us to? I figure that all the moving object must stop at one point….

    Reply
  17. Sebastian Ktna January 4, 2014 at 5:22 pm -

    when I will be Emperor of the Galaxy these stars will all be mine…MINE I SAY!!!

    Reply
  18. Colin McCormac January 4, 2014 at 5:23 pm -

    Maybe our solar system is a collapsed Blue Giant?

    Reply
    • Michael Charlong January 4, 2014 at 5:28 pm -

      not a chance.

      Reply
    • Colin McCormac January 4, 2014 at 5:29 pm -

      ok; I’m not a scientist, just wondering :-)

      Reply
    • Alessandro January 5, 2014 at 6:07 am -

      Not possible. Blue Giant burn much more rapidly and have lifespans of million of years, rather than billions like our sun. When they run out of fuel, they explode as supernovae, living behind a black hole or a neutron star.
      Our sun, n solar system, come from a collapsed nebula/gas cloud.

      Reply
  19. Al Sniezevage January 4, 2014 at 5:23 pm -

    I don’t see how this is a guess?

    Reply
  20. Tom Skundric January 4, 2014 at 5:25 pm -

    I’m constantly amazed, thanks. :)

    Reply
  21. MrsCharlyn M Cassier January 4, 2014 at 5:25 pm -

    Maybe comparing things that are easily tangible would help… For example: our sun as a speck of sand and this blue hypergiant is a basketball? These figures are mindblowing!

    Reply
  22. Michael Charlong January 4, 2014 at 5:26 pm -

    Somewhere out there lurks a star so massive its actually embarrassed.

    Reply
  23. Jerachmiel Radion Zh January 4, 2014 at 5:29 pm -
    Reply
  24. James Hirst January 4, 2014 at 5:30 pm -

    Do any astrophysicists know where I could find some information regarding the CME’s of blue/red/yellow supergiants? Please tag me in your post so I don’t miss it. Cheers

    Reply
  25. Gavin Meek January 4, 2014 at 5:33 pm -

    This video will help show you the different sizes of the planets to one of the largest Sun found.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWpZ1gIEHhY

    Reply
  26. Cloud Hamaki January 4, 2014 at 5:34 pm -

    “Star maker” by Olaf stapledon…

    Reply
  27. George Belloso Castaneda January 4, 2014 at 5:38 pm -

    Amazing!

    Reply
  28. Kenrick Mohammed January 4, 2014 at 5:39 pm -

    OMG that is soooooo huge :O

    Reply
  29. Ryan Albro January 4, 2014 at 5:58 pm -

    The universe has giant blue balls.

    Reply
  30. Ian Webb January 4, 2014 at 6:00 pm -

    Mind boggling! If they had planets in orbit, the distances out they’d need to be, (to avoid being sucked into the super/hyper giants,) would mean orbits which take millions of our years to go around once!

    Reply
  31. James N Garcia January 4, 2014 at 6:02 pm -

    if the earth were the size of a golf ball our sun would be as big around a school bus is long. if the earth were the size of a golf ball the star canis majoris would be the size of earth’s orbit.

    Reply
  32. Ramesh Shukla January 4, 2014 at 6:03 pm -

    With our finite physical structure and limited sensual and mental preception,we are not able to understand the vastness and vividness of the cosmos. In an old sanskrit book the creator says: i have created so many universes that i can not count them;but i can count the ATOMS!

    Reply
  33. Hollis Lee Strout January 4, 2014 at 6:05 pm -

    When these go nova or hyper nova this is,it produces the rare heavy elements that are essential of life. What to know what created us. Just take a good look. Every element in our body came from a star.

    Reply
  34. Fawad Raza January 4, 2014 at 6:40 pm -

    Imagine a lifeform in its own ‘habitable’ zone on a planet orbiting this star.

    Reply
  35. John T Eyre January 4, 2014 at 6:43 pm -

    I’ve heard that because of the massively higher gravitational pressure in the center of these supergiants that the fusion processes are different than in our sun, leading to more heavy metals and other high atomic weight atoms. True ?

    Reply
  36. Gordon Van Wormer January 4, 2014 at 6:46 pm -

    Stay away from these!

    Reply
  37. Hazel Ashton January 4, 2014 at 6:46 pm -

    Wow learn something new every day.

    Reply
  38. Tyler Stone January 4, 2014 at 7:10 pm -

    I cant even fathom the enormity of those stars =/

    Reply
  39. Sean Casilli January 4, 2014 at 7:16 pm -

    Am I doing the math right that it would take ~5 HOURS to go around that star at the speed of light?

    Reply
  40. Ernesto Mendez January 4, 2014 at 7:30 pm -

    Funny we humans still look at the Universe similar to 600 years ago sailors saw the world as flat. We wonder how & why. Awesome.

    Reply
  41. Daniel Rossiter January 4, 2014 at 8:42 pm -

    The bigger a star the quicker it dies. It would be an awesome sight to witness one of these Supergiant stars go supernova/hypernova! Does anyone know if Betelgeuse will go supernova within our lifetime?

    Reply
  42. Francis Martin Mosqueda Baluran January 4, 2014 at 9:26 pm -

    there must be life somewhere…

    Reply
  43. Jethro Blackmore January 4, 2014 at 10:00 pm -

    So it’s safe to say that Willy size isn’t. Such a big deal

    Reply
  44. Antonio Kanickaraj January 4, 2014 at 10:57 pm -

    You could fit a billion suns in the VY canis majoris!

    Reply
  45. Antonio Kanickaraj January 4, 2014 at 10:57 pm -

    You could fit a billion suns in the VY canis majoris!

    Reply
  46. Sean King January 4, 2014 at 11:54 pm -

    Who said they couldn’t have planets? They would just be further out? Along with the habitable zone

    Reply
  47. Prithvi Shiv January 5, 2014 at 3:33 am -

    Go home nature you are drunk.

    Reply
  48. Russ Stillman January 5, 2014 at 3:54 am -

    Trip on these balls, and feel utterly microscopic.

    Reply
  49. mrbofus January 5, 2014 at 2:48 pm -

    “There surface temperatures fall somewhere between 10,000–50,000 K.”

    “Their”, not “There”.

    Reply
  50. Shawn Begnaud January 5, 2014 at 12:39 pm -

    Still not as big as my ego

    Reply
  51. Shawn Begnaud January 5, 2014 at 12:39 pm -

    Still not as big as my ego

    Reply

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