Superstar: VY Canis Majoris

Now, usually in this little blog, I prefer to report the most current scientific news I can find. But I have discovered something that so shocked me that I had to talk about it, old news as it may be.

While I was wandering about on the internet, I ran across a computer-generated video that lined up all of the larger bodies in the solar system, starting from Pluto. It panned and zoomed across the line, progressing to Earth, then to Saturn, Jupiter, the sun, and so on. I was thunderstruck by the tiny scale of the sun compared to the giant star Antares. But what really knocked my socks off was the grandeur of the star VV Cephei, which was so large that the low resolution of the video actually made the sun invisible when the camera was zoomed out far enough to see all of the star. A quick consultation with Wikipedia revealed that VV Cephei, while enormous, is not actually the largest star. The red hypergiant VY Canis Majoris is actually a full ten percent larger than that!

Always having been a fan of scale comparisons, I brought up Blender immediately (Blender is by far the coolest piece of free software I’ve ever seen. It’s an open-source 3D modeling and rendering engine, and it rivals or beats anything else I’ve seen on the market. You can learn more here, if you feel so inclined.) I’ve found Blender very handy for this, since you can enter an exact numerical scaling factor when resizing an object. So I created a sphere to represent the Sun, and a sphere to represent VY Canis Majoris (which is 2100 times larger). This was the result:

Click here for a larger version of this image.

The Sun is that little yellow blotch. The enormous red one is VY Canis Majoris. The sun compared to this giant among stars is, to me, like the height of Mount Everest compared to the Earth on which it sits.

Once in a blue moon, the universe still amazes me…

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26 Responses to “Superstar: VY Canis Majoris”

  1. collector Says:

    impressive!

  2. blackexodia Says:

    yeh ive heard of this I did a movie of it

  3. john richards Says:

    biggest thing i’ve ever seen

  4. anonymous Says:

    I think it’s funny how christians take this info and use it to convert nonbelievers. I’m not gullible enough to fall for that. Like NASA is saying, it’s all gases. The earth is made entirely out of gases. Don’t believe me? Research it. Everything is made out of happenstance.

    • soumynona Says:

      Um, I researched it and it said it has Oxygen in it but it doesn’t say that it’s made entirely out of gases. Oh and your opinion of what Earth is made out of does not interest me and probably doesn’t interest any other people. I’m just telling you the truth.

  5. shashan Says:

    Happenstance my ass!!! GOD has created a beautiful universe!!!

  6. asymptote Says:

    Meaning no disrespect, where did the theological debate come from?

  7. ForHim Says:

    Truth is truth, no matter what you believe!

  8. MilKieWee Says:

    Canis Majoris is not 2100 times bigger. It’s Diameter is 2100 larger. Comparing the volume of this gigantic star with the sun, so really comparing the Size!, the difference is much much muuuuuch bigger.
    The formule for calculating is 4/3 x pi x r^3 (where as the sun is d1=2r which is about 3.10 x 10^11. A very nice movie about how big this star really is comparing to the earth on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2xYh8wJzL0

  9. Simon Says:

    I’ve been looking for that computer-generated video for a long time. The one panning from pluto through to Canis Majoris. If you could guide me to a link of where I might find this video I would be ever so greatful.

  10. Leonard Bolton Says:

    How do I find Canis Majoris in the sky or on a chart. Skywards I can see Sirius (same constellation) and Betelegeuse in Orion — another big star but I can’t seem to find anything to tell me where CAnis Majoris is visible

  11. asymptote Says:

    I’m not sure, myself. I looked it up, and according to Wikipedia, VY Canis Majoris has an apparent magnitude of 9.5, which probably means it’s going to be invisible without a good telescope and an un-light-polluted sky. As for its actual location within Canis Majoris, I have no idea.

  12. Black Hole Jack Says:

    That picture makes our sun to a joke…

    I’ve always been wondering, let’s say if we could fly into it’s atmosphere with a space vessel. Would it be like flying into clouds, or like gelé or oil or a sea? I mean the density of the gas that makes the whole star.

    Btw, talking about god, if there’s a god, do you really think he cares about what you or hi/she thinks or believes? If he exist, he created you of love, not to make you pray or believe in him. You see, to make a religion more realistic, you need a good story. A story that makes peps think; “aha that’s why…”
    And for that matter, ask yourself if your “god” can explain black holes, magnetares, proton/neutron stars, singularitys, Einsteins Relativity Theory, dinosaurs, human evolution, germs, AIDS, and even tho, the complexity of the human brain…
    And look back, everything is written down by humans the whole story about god is written by humans (men), from generation to generation. If there’s a god, i think that story is pretty useless, because if his here, then he would appears to me right now, it should not need a story, because it should be irrelevant in the whole picture and in the situation.

    Thanks!

    • robert Says:

      you said that if he’s real, he would appear to you right now. But what kind of God would he be if he felt compelled to act on your timetable? God acts on his own time not on ours!

  13. asymptote Says:

    I don’t know much about religion, but in response to your first bit:

    As I understand it, the atmospheres of stars are composed of plasma. Flying through the surface of this star would probably be like flying through a gas. The outer layers probably wouldn’t be very dense, so it might be a bit like flying through air, except there would be nothing but bright light all around you, since photons can’t pass through a plasma. There would also be some electrical effects. the farther down you got, the denser the gas would be, until you reached a really weird substance called electron-degenerate matter that’s so dense you wouldn’t be able to pass through it. I’m not sure what the core of such a massive star would be like.

  14. Jamey Says:

    My opinion is, there is no god. Or at least, got didn’t create this universe.

    I am of the opinion that the term “God” was put in place to give Humans a Structure of life, a reason, a higher being to worship or relate to. It is up to the person to realise that god isn’t real.

    Then again, this is only my opinion!

  15. Eterna1 M1ndset Says:

    I love science, and i am wowed by the massiveness of the universe. to me it is impressive if it is created, and pointless if it is not… complexities do not happen by chance, and everything about life seems fairly complex, something/someone did it. I side with this Jesus fellow, but that is a different matter all together:-) just for fun check–>

    ***Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”***

    thats pretty simple…

    ***Isaiah 40:25-26***

    “To whom then will you compare me,
    or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
    Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    Who created these?
    He who brings out their host and numbers them,
    calling them all by name;
    because he is great in strength,
    mighty in power,
    not one is missing.”

    last but definately not least

    ***Romans 1:20*** “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

  16. Anonymous Says:

    The universe always amazes me, and scares me a lot too, I mean, Just look at the comparitive sizes of the two stars, and People think the sun is huge compared to the earth (having a diamater 100 times, that of the earth)
    Just simply amazing
    And I’m not sure whether I believe in God or not, but I don’t see why this has to turn into an argument.
    People can believe in what they want to believe in, what right has someone on the internet got to call someone wrong for what they believe in, jeez, people should be more respectful.
    This is coming from an A-level physics student XD

  17. billy Says:

    I can’t remember who said it, but somebody did – “if there’s a god who’s primary concern is humanity, he can’t be a very important god”. So many people treat god as though he were a genie. “please god give me the the same nice things i see other people have”. in other words, “please satisfy my jealous desires”. i don’t believe in god myself. but to those who do, i say this – if god created the universe, he didn’t create it for us. he created us for the universe. accept that, and it’ll change the way you see yourself, other people, other life, our planet, the universe, and god himself.

    it’s all impressive.

  18. Radical Says:

    I say that pluto is the biggest planet+star in the whole Universe and if you dont believe me research it

  19. BubbaMex Says:

    It’s hell discovering just how insignificant we really are. You realize that the calculation of Canis Majoris is based on observation, readings, more calculations (including Hubble) and it’s a decent guess. But realize this is what WE can see at this time. There is a very good possibility that there are larger bodies we can not see at this time. There is so little we know or can see.

    It’s hell being insignificant.

  20. Steve Says:

    I love it when someone presents information like this, all the churchies come out of the woodwork and proclaim ‘This is God’s work. See how great God is?!?! Don’t question God. Only praise the Lord and give thanks!’ Why? Why do they do that? It’s almost as if they’re scared. God’s a scapegoat.

    Whether God made it or not, man needs to keep on questioning how all this came about. If you stop asking questions, you stop looking for answers and then you stagnate in ignorance. Just saying ‘God did it’ is the easy way out. If God did do it, I’m sure he/she/it wouldn’t mind if we investigated it and proved it. Surely that’d be the final indisputable proof the churchies could use to thumb in our faces and say, “See, we told you so!” You think they’d want to investigate such things.


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