Thursday 22 October 2020

Astrognome 100 Great Stars No 48 Gamma 2 Velorum


Gamma 2 Velorum

The gamma Velorum system in the constellation of Vela the Sails is actually made up of 4 stars. With a combined magnitude of 1.7 and contain the closest and brightest example of the rare type of star known as a Wolf Rayet star.

It is gamma Velorum 2 we will be looking at as it is a wolf rayet star. These are named after the 2 French 19th century astronomers Charles Wolf and Georges Rayet who first discovered this class of star. These stars have a spectral class of either WC or WN, WC stars have helium and carbon in their spectra while WN stars have helium and nitrogen in theirs.

Wolf Rayet stars are massive stars and because they loose their mass at an incredible rate they have very short lives in astronomical terms. Gamma 2 Velorum which is over 1,000 light years away is a WC8 star and is accompanied by an 07 giant star, many wolf rayets are double stars. Gamma 2 has a temperature of an eye watering 55,000 degrees its companion a mere 35,000 degrees!!! Our Sun by comparison is a mere 5,800 degrees. Gamma 2 will almost certainly end its life as a supernova.

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