Astronomy

Relatable comparison of VY Canis Majoris to the Sun?

Relatable comparison of VY Canis Majoris to the Sun?



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I was trying to describe how vast the largest known star is to someone and felt I wasn't quite able to relate the scale difference. I know it's roughly 1500 times larger than the sun. Anyone know of a good analogy?


After some playing around with wolfram alpha and google my best comparison has been

The sun compared to VY Canis Majoris is like a donut compared to the London Eye.

The London Eye is about 120m in diameter, this divided by 1500 is about 8cm which is roughly the diameter of a ring donut.


Depends a bit on whether you want to compare diameters or volume (3D).

For radius, consider that it's approximately 6.6 A.U., so if you dropped it into the Solar System it'd extend out to well past Jupiter's orbit.

Or it's the ratio of a standard tenpin bowling ball to the point of a sewing needle

The volumetric ratio is 1420^2 or about 2 million to one. That's roughly one person out of the entire population of Houston, TX. Or the ratio of 100 liters of water to a single drop from an eyedropper.


On the banana scale, it's an ore freighter.

Every physicist worth their salt knows that the most important scale in the galaxy is the banana. Now, your average banana is between 7-8 inches in length.

Approximately the same shape are the ore freighters that go on the Great Lakes. They're called 1000 footers because, go figure, they're roughly 1000 feet long. The banana is to the freighter as the sun is to YV Canis Major.

Here's a picture of one of those freighters. Now imagine one of the workers is having lunch, eating a banana.


An airplane flying along the surface of the sun would take about 6.6 months to circle it once.

The same airplane would take 787 years to complete one trip around VY Canis Majoris.



Aircraft's speed: 900 km / h

Sun's radius: 696,000 km

One circle around the sun: 4,373,096.97 km

Time for aircraft to complete this circle: 4858 hours ≈ 6.6 months


VY Canis Majoris radius: 988,320,000 km

One circle around VY Canis Majoris: 6,209,797,703 km

Time for aircraft to complete this circle: 6899775.225 hours ≈ 787.645 years!


PS: Looks like the math done in one of the videos shared in the comments above is incorrect :)


I think both the ore freighter / banana and donut / London Eye comparisons have scales that are relatable but lack "universality" in the sense that people may not know the size of the London Eye or an ore freighter. I'd suggest thumbnail vs bus, as both exist all over the world.


Well, taking the scale of the solar system as an example, you can say that VY Canis Majoris is around 70% the size of Saturn's orbit.

Reference numbers:
Saturn's average distance from the Sun = 1,433,449,370 km.
VY Canis Majoris radius = 988,300,000 km.


You should look at Mark Rober's video, he uses a size comparaison known by everybodyevery American: a football field!

Assuming the Sun is a normal soccer ball…

  • Earth is a pinhead at 26 yards (23m) away from the Sun/ball.
  • Jupiter is a grape at 135 yards (123m) away from the Sun/ball, almost the size of the field.
  • Saturn is a smaller grape at "2,5 football fields away from the Sun/ball", which is almost 300 yards (274m)
  • At 6:02 of the video, "the largest star known" would be the size of the Empire State Building: 381m (416 yards)

VY Canis Majoris

Of all known stars, the VY Canis Majoris is the largest. This red Hypergiant star, found in the constellation Canis Major, is estimated to have a radius at least 1,800 that of the Sun’s. In astronomy-speak we use the term 1,800 solar radii to refer to this particular size. Although not the most luminous among all known stars, it still ranks among the top 50.

Hypergiants are the most massive and luminous of stars. As such, they emit energy at a very fast rate. Thus, hypergiants only last for a few million years. Compare that to the Sun and similar stars that can keep on burning up to 10 billion years.

VY Canis Majoris a.k.a. VY CMa is about 4,900 light years from the Earth. This value, however, is just a rough estimate because it is too far for parallax to be used. Parallax is the most common method for measuring star distances. It is actually a special kind of triangulation method, i.e., similar to the one employed by engineers that make use of angles and a fixed baseline.

Some stars exist in pairs. These are called binary star systems. There are also multiple star systems. VY CMa, however, burns as a single star.

Being a semiregular variable star, VY Canis Majoris exhibits periodic light changes. Its period lasts for about 2,200 days.

The French astronomer Jerome Lalande is credited to be the first person to have recorded VY CMa. The entry in his star catalogue, dated March 7, 1801, lists it as a 7th magnitude star. Apparent magnitude is a unit of measurement for the brightness of a star as observed from Earth. The greater a star’s magnitude, the less bright it is.

Hence, a star with a magnitude of 1 (a.k.a. a 1st magnitude star) is considered among the brightest. There are also negative values, which denote even brighter bodies. Just to give you an idea where VY Canis Majoris stands in terms of brightness, the Sun (the brightest from our perspective) has an apparent magnitude = -26.73, while the faintest objects observable in the visible light spectrum (as detected from the Hubble Telescope) have magnitudes = 30.

It was once believed that VY CMa was a multiple star system. This was due to six discrete components that were measured by observers during the 19th century. Scientists eventually realized that the said discrete components were actually bright areas of the surrounding nebula.

You can read more about the VY Canis Majoris here in Universe Today. Here are the links:

Read more about it at NASA:

Here are two episodes at Astronomy Cast that you might want to check out as well:


Detailed Images of the Hypergiant Star VY Canis Majoris

Using ESO&rsquos Very Large Telescope, at team of astronomers has captured the most detailed images ever of the hypergiant star VY Canis Majoris. These new observations show how the unexpectedly large size of the particles of dust surrounding the star enable it to lose an enormous amount of mass as it begins to die. This process, understood now for the first time, is necessary to prepare such gigantic stars to meet explosive demises as supernovae.

VY Canis Majoris is a stellar goliath, a red hypergiant, one of the largest known stars in the Milky Way. It is 30&ndash40 times the mass of the Sun and 300,000 times more luminous. In its current state, the star would encompass the orbit of Jupiter, having expanded tremendously as it enters the final stages of its life.

The new observations of the star used the SPHERE instrument on the VLT. The adaptive optics system of this instrument corrects images to a higher degree than earlier adaptive optics systems. This allows features very close to bright sources of light to be seen in great detail. SPHERE clearly revealed how the brilliant light of VY Canis Majoris was lighting up clouds of material surrounding it.

And by using the ZIMPOL mode of SPHERE, the team could not only peer deeper into the heart of this cloud of gas and dust around the star, but they could also see how the starlight was scattered and polarized by the surrounding material. These measurements were key to discovering the elusive properties of the dust.

Careful analysis of the polarization results revealed these grains of dust to be comparatively large particles, 0.5 micrometers across, which may seem small, but grains of this size are about 50 times larger than the dust normally found in interstellar space.

Throughout their expansion, massive stars shed large amounts of material &mdash every year, VY Canis Majoris sees 30 times the mass of the Earth expelled from its surface in the form of dust and gas. This cloud of material is pushed outwards before the star explodes, at which point some of the dust is destroyed, and the rest cast out into interstellar space. This material is then used, along with the heavier elements created during the supernova explosion, by the next generation of stars, which may make use of the material for planets.

Until now, it had remained mysterious how the material in these giant stars&rsquo upper atmospheres is pushed away into space before the host explodes. The most likely driver has always seemed to be radiation pressure, the force that starlight exerts. As this pressure is very weak, the process relies on large grains of dust, to ensure a broad enough surface area to have an appreciable effect.

&ldquoMassive stars live short lives,&rdquo says lead author of the paper, Peter Scicluna, of the Academia Sinica Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Taiwan. &ldquoWhen they near their final days, they lose a lot of mass. In the past, we could only theorize about how this happened. But now, with the new SPHERE data, we have found large grains of dust around this hypergiant. These are big enough to be pushed away by the star&rsquos intense radiation pressure, which explains the star&rsquos rapid mass loss.&rdquo

The large grains of dust observed so close to the star mean that the cloud can effectively scatter the star&rsquos visible light and be pushed by the radiation pressure from the star. The size of the dust grains also means much of it is likely to survive the radiation produced by VY Canis Majoris&rsquo inevitable dramatic demise as a supernova. This dust then contributes to the surrounding interstellar medium, feeding future generations of stars and encouraging them to form planets.


Sun Size Comparison.

always blows my mind. Good thing VY Canis Majoris isn't on here or you wouldn't even be able to see the bottom half.

VY Canis Majoris isn't #1 anymore, this guy is. I'm betting it won't stay #1 for long 'till we break out the James Webb Space Telescope.

I'll be honest, this really frightens me.

I should be getting tired of seeing these, but I never do. It's a sobering reminder of what we mean to the scale of the universe.

Why? these stars are extremely far from us. Any supernovas from them would never affect us.

Oh yeah? Well the Sun has a longer lifetime. so suck it Antares.

I dont know if youre a hockey fan, but the Flyers goalie agrees with you.

Now try going full nihilist.

Wouldn't want to be anywhere near Antares when it goes nova.

Supernova* A nova is very different.

As much as I try and even though we have a size comparison, my mind can never actually grasp the concept of something that large

I'm pretty sure this isn't truly to scale. Antares is actually much larger than that compared to the sun.

Edit: to clarify, Antares' radius is measure to be around 880 solar radii, where Aldebaran is measured at around 44 solar radii. That would make Antares about 20 times bigger than it is pictured to be compared to Aldebaran. The sun in this photo is about 5 pixels. Antares is draw with a diameter of about 500 pixels. It should be more like 4500 pixels compared to the Sun's 5 pixels.


UY Scuti vs VY Canis Majoris

Both UY Scuti and VY Canis Majoris are some of the biggest stars of our galaxy milky way. Though UY Scuti compared to VY Canis Majoris is larger.

UY Scuti vs VY Canis Majoris – Star Size Comparison

Just for size comparison between UY Scuti vs VY Cansi Majoris:

UY Scuti Star Radius – (1700 ± 200) solar radii.

VY Canis Majoris Star Radius – (1420 ± 120) solar radii.

A Solar Radii is the radius of the sun (696,340 km/432,685 mi). Hence if we consider the average size then star UY Scuti (UY Sct) is almost 20% larger than VY Canis Majoris (VY CMa).

It becomes very difficult to determine the exact size of a distant object. But, scientists give the near-about size of any distant stars. If we consider a minimum radius of UY Scuti and the Maximum of VY Canis Majoris then VY Canis Majoris would be bigger.

“According to volume, UY Scuti is almost 5 billion times the sun. So, 5 billion Sun-size stars can fit inside UY Scuti. Whereas, almost 3 billion Sun size star can fit inside of VY Canis Majoris.”

While comparing the mass between both the stars:

UY Scuti Star Mass – 7-10 times of Sun Mass.

VY Canis Majoris Mass – 17±8 times of Sun Mass.

The UY Scuti is bigger than VY Canis Majoris in comparison to the diameter. But scientists believe, the mass of the VY Canis Majoris is more than UY Scuti.


Stellar Heavyweights: VY Canis Majoris

There are many different objects that have always grasped my imagination be it Saturn’s rings, the mystical shapes of nebulae, the plethora of strange exoplanets, and of course, Luna. But there are some discoveries that boggle the mind, and for me, VY Canis Majoris tops the list.

Situated in the constellation Canis Major about 3,900 light years from Earth, this star is *one of the largest main-sequence star we know of in our galaxy (although another heavyweight is in the process of forming). The stellar titan was first observed over 200 years ago, and for many years afterwards, it was suspected to be a part of a binary star system. Because the star is so huge, it is unstable and consequently, it is losing billions of tons of material every day. This material has collected to form a vast system of complex arcs and filaments making it difficult for astronomers to view the star effectively. After extensive studies undertaken by the Hubble Space Telescope, it was confirmed in 1998 that there is no companion star, VY CMa is simply so massive that if it was to replace our Sun at the center of our solar system, its surface would stretch out beyond the orbit of Jupiter.


Crazy Image Shows How Tiny Earth Is Compared To Our Sun

The size of stuff all depends on your perspective. Compared to ants, humans can feel big, intelligent, and important. We're not so big in the grand scheme of things, however.

John Brady at Astronomy Central shows just how small we really are compared to the sun in the image below:

And while the sun might dwarf the Earth, in reality, it is miniscule compared to some of the largest stars in our home galaxy, the Milky Way. The most massive star within 10,000 light years from Earth is the largest star of a two-star system called Eta Carinae.

This star is 90 times the mass of our sun and shines five million times brighter. It appears blue to the naked eye because its surface temperature is six times hotter than our sun. Here's what the star looks like compared to our sun:

Astronomers estimate that Betelgeuse is 300 times larger than Eta Carinae. If you replaced our sun with Betelgeuse, the star would swallow the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, reaching out as far as the orbit of Jupiter.

Despite its size, Betelgeuse actually has a surface temperature two-thirds that of our sun, which is why it appears red. Here's what Betelgeus looks like, compared to Eta Carinae:

VY Canis Majoris is a hypergiant star located 3,900 light years from Earth. Hypergiants are a category of stars classified for their enormous mass and luminosity. Because they burn up fuel very quickly, stars like VY Canis Majoris only live for a few million years while our sun will generate nuclear fusion in its core for eight billion years.

Once they've exhausted their fuel supply, hypergiants explode in a glorious burst of light called a supernova. These explosions are what seed the universe with heavy elements like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen that are essential for life on Earth. And if the star is massive enough before exploding, then it will form a black hole.

Astronomers expect VY Cani Majoris to go supernova within the next 100,000 years. Here's how VY Canis Majoris compares to Betelgeuse (in the middle) and Eta Carinae (far left) — our sun is too small to see:


A hypergiant star’s mysterious dimming

View larger. | Artist’s concept of red hypergiant star VY Canis Majoris, with its giant arcs of plasma (reminiscent of prominences on our own sun). According to a new study, these vast arcs are thought to contribute to an observed dimming of this star over the past several centuries. Image via NASA/ ESA/ R. Humphreys (University of Minnesota)/ J. Olmsted (STScI)/ Hubblesite.

VY Canis Majoris – in the direction to our constellation Canis Major the Greater Dog – is one of the largest stars known. It’s a red hypergiant, so huge that it makes the famous giant star Betelgeuse look small by comparison. If you replaced our sun with VY Canis Majoris, its outer layers would extend past the orbit of the 5th planet, Jupiter. It’s far away at about 3,900 light-years, so it only looks like a faint star to us (with telescopes) even though it’s actually as bright as 300,000 suns. Astronomers have wondered about this star, because – like Betelgeuse in late 2019 and early 2020 – it’s known to have faded in brightness. VY Canis Majoris, though, has faded very gradually, over the past couple of centuries. On March 4, 2021, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope said they think they know why. They said this aging star is belching out huge clouds of gases, forming dust that is gradually blocking more and more of its light. One of the researchers commented:

VY Canis Majoris is behaving a lot like Betelgeuse on steroids.

The researchers published their peer-reviewed findings on February 4 in The Astronomical Journal.

The dimming is reminiscent of Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star, which suddenly and dramatically faded last year, but then fully recovered its former brightness. The dimming led to speculation that Betelgeuse might explode soon in a supernova! Of course, Betelgeuse has not exploded. According to astrophysicist Roberta Humphreys at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis – who led the new study – the dimming of VY Canis Majoris is likely similar to that of Betelgeuse, but on a much larger scale. The fading periods on VY Canis Majoris are much longer, and the star dims more dramatically. The dimming is due to increasing amounts of dust being formed that temporarily blocks light from the star.

The scientists think that there are similar processes creating the dust around both stars, but that the much larger outflows are forming more substantial amounts of dust around VY Canis Majoris. Humphreys commented:

This star is absolutely amazing. It’s one of the largest stars that we know of, a very evolved, red supergiant. It has had multiple, giant eruptions.

These images zoom into VY Canis Majoris, which is surrounded by an immense nebula of material expelled from the star. Image via NASA/ ESA/ R. Humphreys (University of Minnesota)/ J. Olmsted (STScI)/ Hubblesite. VY Canis Majoris is located in the direction toward our constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog. Sirius, the brightest star in our sky, is also located in this constellation. Image via NASA/ ESA/ J. DePasquale (STScI)/ A. Fujii/ Hubblesite.

So just how do these stars – Betelgeuse and VY Canis Major – cause these vast clouds of obscuring dust?

They’re thought to shed some of their mass through giant arcs of plasma, extremely hot gases, similar to the solar prominences seen to loop up at times from our own sun. The arcs from VY Canis Major – a much larger star than our sun – are also much, much larger. Another difference is that the arcs of material appear to not be physically attached to the star. Instead, they appear to be thrown out from the star, after which they drift away from it. Previously, Humphreys and her team had calculated the arcs of material had been ejected from the star in periodic episodes ranging from several hundred years ago to within the past couple hundred years.

Our sun behaves in a way that’s similar to VY Canis Majoris, albeit on a smaller scale. Here’s an eruptive prominence as seen in ultraviolet light emerging from the sun, on March 30, 2010. Earth is superimposed for a sense of scale. Image via NASA/ SDO.

The new Hubble observations show additional structures, such as knots of hot gas, thought to be less than 100 years old. It turned out that the timing of the formation of some of these features coincided with observations from the 19th and 20th centuries that showed VY Canis Majoris had dimmed to about one-sixth of its usual brightness.

This is why VY Canis Major – once a visible star to the eye – can no longer be seen with the eye alone. In our time, you need a telescope to observe it.

It’s hard to fathom just how immense a red hypergiant star like VY Canis Majoris is. The masses of just some of the small knots of gas on VY Canis Majoris are more than twice that of Jupiter. The star itself has a mind-boggling radius 1,420 times that of our sun. Betelgeuse is also immensely larger than our sun, yet VY Canis Majoris is so huge it sheds 100 times more mass than Betelgeuse. As Humphreys noted:

It’s amazing the star can do it. The origin of these high mass-loss episodes in both VY Canis Majoris and Betelgeuse is probably caused by large-scale surface activity, large convective cells like on the sun. But on VY Canis Majoris, the cells may be as large as the whole sun or larger.

This is probably more common in red supergiants than scientists thought and VY Canis Majoris is an extreme example. It may even be the main mechanism that’s driving the mass loss, which has always been a bit of a mystery for red supergiants.

The new study was led by astrophysicist Roberta Humphreys at the University of Minnesota. Image via University of Minnesota.

Giant stars like VY Canis Majoris don’t live as long as less massive stars like our sun. Our sun is already four-and-a-half billion years old and considered middle aged. VY Canis Majoris is less than 10 million years old and considered to be in its “old age.” The red hypergiant giant phase of a star like this one is estimated to last between 100,000 and 500,000 years. VY Canis Major is predicted to explode as a supernova within the next 100,000 years. If it does explode, we would see it brighten considerably even though it is quite some distance away from us. Its distance (3,900 light-years) is greater than that of Betelgeuse, which is only about 640 light-years away.

While scientists generally think that VY Canis Majoris will eventually explode in a supernova, there’s also a chance it may turn directly into a black hole instead, skipping the supernova stage.

It’ll be interesting to see how much dimmer the star becomes in the years ahead!

The size of VY Canis Majoris is truly immense, about 1,420 times larger (and 300,000 times brighter) than our sun. Image via Oona Räisänen/ Wikipedia.

Bottom line: Astronomers think they’ve figured out why VY Canis Majoris, one of the largest and brightest stars in our galaxy, has been gradually dimming in brightness over the past couple hundred years.


Detailed Images of the Hypergiant Star VY Canis Majoris

Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, at team of astronomers has captured the most detailed images ever of the hypergiant star VY Canis Majoris. These new observations show how the unexpectedly large size of the particles of dust surrounding the star enable it to lose an enormous amount of mass as it begins to die. This process, understood now for the first time, is necessary to prepare such gigantic stars to meet explosive demises as supernovae.

VY Canis Majoris is a stellar goliath, a red hypergiant, one of the largest known stars in the Milky Way. It is 30–40 times the mass of the Sun and 300,000 times more luminous. In its current state, the star would encompass the orbit of Jupiter, having expanded tremendously as it enters the final stages of its life.

The new observations of the star used the SPHERE instrument on the VLT. The adaptive optics system of this instrument corrects images to a higher degree than earlier adaptive optics systems. This allows features very close to bright sources of light to be seen in great detail. SPHERE clearly revealed how the brilliant light of VY Canis Majoris was lighting up clouds of material surrounding it.

And by using the ZIMPOL mode of SPHERE, the team could not only peer deeper into the heart of this cloud of gas and dust around the star, but they could also see how the starlight was scattered and polarized by the surrounding material. These measurements were key to discovering the elusive properties of the dust.

Careful analysis of the polarization results revealed these grains of dust to be comparatively large particles, 0.5 micrometers across, which may seem small, but grains of this size are about 50 times larger than the dust normally found in interstellar space.


This video sequence takes you on a voyage from a broad vista of the sky into a close-up look at one of the biggest stars in the Milky Way, VY Canis Majoris. The final image comes from the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Throughout their expansion, massive stars shed large amounts of material — every year, VY Canis Majoris sees 30 times the mass of the Earth expelled from its surface in the form of dust and gas. This cloud of material is pushed outwards before the star explodes, at which point some of the dust is destroyed, and the rest cast out into interstellar space. This material is then used, along with the heavier elements created during the supernova explosion, by the next generation of stars, which may make use of the material for planets.

Until now, it had remained mysterious how the material in these giant stars’ upper atmospheres is pushed away into space before the host explodes. The most likely driver has always seemed to be radiation pressure, the force that starlight exerts. As this pressure is very weak, the process relies on large grains of dust, to ensure a broad enough surface area to have an appreciable effect.

“Massive stars live short lives,” says lead author of the paper, Peter Scicluna, of the Academia Sinica Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Taiwan. “When they near their final days, they lose a lot of mass. In the past, we could only theorize about how this happened. But now, with the new SPHERE data, we have found large grains of dust around this hypergiant. These are big enough to be pushed away by the star’s intense radiation pressure, which explains the star’s rapid mass loss.”

The large grains of dust observed so close to the star mean that the cloud can effectively scatter the star’s visible light and be pushed by the radiation pressure from the star. The size of the dust grains also means much of it is likely to survive the radiation produced by VY Canis Majoris’ inevitable dramatic demise as a supernova. This dust then contributes to the surrounding interstellar medium, feeding future generations of stars and encouraging them to form planets.


Comparison Uy Scuti Vs Vy Canis Majoris

June 22 2020 january 6 2019 by anthony robinson there are thought to be between 100 billion and 400 billion stars in our galaxy the milky way and waaaay more beyond that so which is the largest star in the universe according to current calculations in 2019. Uy scuti in comparison.

Ficcao Fantasia Ou Verdade Uy Scuti A Maior Estrela Ja Encontrada No Maior Estrela Do Universo Verdades Estrela

Both uy scuti and vy canis majoris are red hypergiant stars in our galaxy the milky way galaxy.

Comparison uy scuti vs vy canis majoris. Uy scuti vs vy canis majoris which is the largest star in the universe. Both uy scuti and vy canis majoris are red hypergiant stars in our galaxy the milky way galaxy. Red hypergiants are large enough to possibly create a black hole after their inevitable supernova.

Vy canis majoris ranging from 1 300 to 1 540 solar radii. P these revolve around one star our sun the earth has a circumference of just over uy scuti and vy canis majoris. Uy scuti bd 12 5055 is a red supergiant star in the constellation scutum it is considered one of the largest known stars by radius and is also a pulsating variable star with a maximum brightness of magnitude 8 29 and a minimum of magnitude 10 56.

163 000 light years away from earth and one of the largest known stars with a radius of 1 540 to 1 730 solar. Wikimedia commons faren29 cc by sa 4 0 uy scuti compared to planets and other large stars. Below is a list of the largest stars currently known ordered by radius the unit of measurement used is the radius of the sun approximately 695 700 km.

It has an estimated radius of 1 708 solar radii 1 188 10 9 kilometres. Thus a volume nearly 5 billion times that of. Share and enjoy and please don t forget to subscribe.

This red hypergiant star was previously estimated to be 1 800 to 2 200 solar radii. Vy canis majoris is a red hypergiant in the constellation canis major. Uy scuti compared to vy canis majoris an accurate comparison showing the red supergiants uy scuti and vy canis majoris image.

Great uncertainties remain with the membership and order of the list especially when deriving various parameters used in calculations such as stellar luminosity and effective temperature.

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Watch the video: The sun vs VY Canis Majoris (August 2022).