Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Gamma Velorum

Gamma Velorum is a quadruple star system located over 1000 light years from Earth. With an apparent magnitude of 1.72, it is the brightest star in the constellation Vela.

Gamma Velorum is informally known as Regor, which read backwards becomes Roger. In fact, it was named in honor of Roger Chaffee, one of the astronauts who died during the Apollo 1 fire.

Although Gamma Velorum is a quadruple system, its components are too close to each other to be seen individually in the telescope and can only be resolved through spectroscopic observations.

The system can be divided into two subsystems of binary stars that orbit around each other. The first of these subsystems consists of a Wolf Rayet star and a blue supergiant with a mass of 30 solar masses. The second is instead composed of another blue giant with a mass of 15 solar masses and a secondary one whose physical characteristics and spectral type are unknown.

The most interesting star in the system, however, is undoubtedly the Wolf Rayet. This very particular class of objects are in fact very massive stars of very high surface temperature in the final stages of their evolution, which have lost most of their mass in the form of stellar wind. The Wolf Rayet of Gamma Velorum currently has a mass of 9 solar masses, but it is estimated that at birth it had a mass greater than 35 times that of our star.

This star, as mentioned, is in the final stages of its life and it is very likely that in a short time (astronomically speaking) it will explode becoming a type Ib supernova.

Credit: Palomar Observatory.

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