The Pistol Star is one of the most extreme stars we known about, both in size, mass and luminosity.

While only 3 million years old, the star is 100 times more massive than our Sun, (although it used to be 200 times as massive), and it is approximately 10 million times as bright. In 6 seconds it has emitted more light than our Sun will in an entire year, making it the most luminous star in our galaxy!

It is located in the constellation Sagittarius, about 25,000 light years away. Because of its proximity to the center of the Milky Way, it is hidden behind enormous clouds of dust, which is why it hasn't been given much attention until recently. Even the Hubble Space Telescope has to observe it in the infrared part of the spectrum, since it passes through the dust more easily.

The star was recently (a few thousand years ago) a so-called LBV (Luminous Blue Variable) star, and in this phase many stars blow away large amounts of gases. After shedding the outer, hydrogen-rich layers, the extremely hot core of the star is exposed. The Pistol Star is probably going through this phase right now, having shed a cloud of gas which we call the Pistol Nebula. Another indication is that the star's surface temperature is rapidly rising, perhaps up to as much as 100,000 degrees. After completing this transition, it will have become a Wolf-Rayet star.

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