List of most luminous stars

Below is a list of stars arranged in order of decreasing luminosity (increasing bolometric magnitude). Accurate measurement of stellar luminosities is quite difficult in practice, even when the apparent magnitude is measured accurately, for four reasons:

  1. The distance d to the star must be known, to convert apparent to absolute magnitude. Absolute magnitude is the apparent magnitude a star would have if it were 10 parsecs away from the viewer. Since apparent brightness decreases as the square of the distance (i.e. as 1/d2), a small error (e.g. 10%) in determining d implies an error ~2× as large (thus 20%) in luminosity. Stellar distances are only directly measured accurately out to d ~1000 lt-yrs.
  2. The observed magnitudes must be corrected for the absorbtion or extinction of intervening interstellar or circumstellar dust and gas. This correction can be enormous and difficult to determine precisely. For example, until accurate infrared observations became possible ~50 years ago, the Galactic Center of the Milky Way was totally obscured to visual observations.
  3. The magnitudes at the wavelengths measured must be corrected for those not observed. "Absolute bolometric magnitude" (which term is redundant, practically speaking, since bolometric magnitudes are nearly always "absolute", i.e. corrected for distance) is a measure of the star's luminosity, summing over its emission at all wavelengths, and thus the total amount of energy radiated by a star every second. Bolometric magnitudes can only be estimated by correcting for unobserved portions of the spectrum that have to be modelled, which is always an issue, and often a large correction. The list is dominated by hot blue stars which produce the majority of their energy output in the ultraviolet, but these may not necessarily be the brightest stars at visual wavelengths.
  4. A large proportion of stellar systems discovered with very high luminosity have later been found to be binary. Usually, this results in the total system luminosity being reduced and spread among several components. These binaries are common both because the conditions that produce high mass high luminosity stars also favour multiple star systems, but also because searches for highly luminous stars are inevitably biased towards detecting systems with multiple more normal stars combining to appear luminous.

Because of all these problems, other references may give very different lists of the most luminous stars (different ordering or different stars altogether). Data on different stars can be of somewhat different reliability, depending on the attention one particular star has received as well as largely differing physical difficulties in analysis (see the Pistol Star for an example). The last stars in the list are familiar nearby stars put there for comparison, and not among the most luminous known. It may also interest the reader to know that the Sun is more luminous than approximately 95% of all known stars in the local neighbourhood (out to, say, a few hundred light years), due to enormous numbers of somewhat less massive stars that are cooler and often much less luminous. For perspective, the overall range of stellar luminosities runs from dwarfs less than 1/10,000th as luminous as the Sun to supergiants over 1,000,000 times more luminous.


This list is currently limited mostly to galactic and Magellanic Cloud objects, but a few stars in other local group galaxies can now be examined in enough detail to determine the luminosities. As of mid-2012 the list is more or less complete for stars down to 1,000,000 times the luminosity of the Sun. Some suspected binaries in this magnitude range are excluded because there is insufficient information about the luminosity of the individual components. Selected fainter stars are also shown for comparison.

Despite their extreme luminosity, many of these stars are nevertheless too distant to be observed with the naked eye. Stars that are at least sometimes visible to the unaided eye have their apparent magnitude (6.5 or brighter) highlighted in blue.

Milky Way
Large Magellanic Cloud
Small Magellanic Cloud
Andromeda Galaxy
Triangulum Galaxy
NGC 2366
Star name Bolometric
(in solar units)
Approx. distance
from solar system
(in light years)
visible magnitude
temperature (K)
R136a1 (in LMC) 8710000 −12.5 163000 12.23 53000±3000
M33-013406.63 (in Triangulum Galaxy) 640000010280000 −12.2 to −12.7[1] 23800003070000 16.1 <30000
NGC 2363-V1 (in NGC 2366)[a] 6300000 −12.16[2][3] 11100000 17.88 1300026000
R136c (in LMC) 5623000 −12.0 160000 12.86 51000
Eta Carinae (in Carina Nebula)[b] 5000000 −12.0[4] 7500 −0.8 to 7.9[5] 9400-37200
BAT99-98 (AB12 in LMC) 5000000 −12.0[6] 165000 13.70 45000
G0.238-0.071 5000000 −12.0[7] 26000
HD 38282 (R144 in LMC)[c] 4500000 −11.9[8] 160000 11.11 47000
R136a2 (in LMC) 4266000 −11.7 160000 12.34 53000
V4998 Sagittarii (near Quintuplet Cluster) 4000000 −11.7[9] 25000 12000
R136a3 (in LMC) 3802000 −11.6 160000 12.97 53000
Melnick 42 (in LMC) 3600000[10] −7.4 160000 12.8 47300
R136a6 (in LMC) 3311000 −11.5 165000 13.35
G0.070+0.025 3300000 −11.5[7] 26000
Var A-1 (in M31) 3200000 −11.5[11] 2450000 17.143[12] 2040028100[11]
Peony Star (WR 102ka) 3200000 −11.5 26100 25100
VFTS 682 (in LMC) 3200000 −11.5 160000 16.1 52210±2500
WR 42e 3200000 −11.5[13][d] 25000 14.53 43652
BAT99-33 (R99 in LMC) 3200000 −11.4[6] 160000 11.45 28000
LSS 4067 3000000 −11.4[14] 8200 11.64 32800
WR 24 (in Carina Nebula) 2950000 −11.4[15] 8200 6.48 50100
NGC 3603-B 2900000 −11.3[16] 24000 11.33 42000
G0.059-0.068 2880000 −11.4[7] 26000
WR 85 2880000 −11.4[15] 15300 10.03 50100
R136a4 (in LMC) 2884000 −11.3 160000 13.96 51000±6000[16]
Melnick 34 A (BAT99-116 in LMC) 2690000 −11.3[17] 160000 13.09 (combined) 53000
WR 102hb 2600000 −11.3[18] 26000 25100
WR 102ea 2500000 −11.25[18] 26000 25100
BAT99-117 (R146 in LMC) 2500000 −11.2[6] 160000 13.116
NGC 3603-A1a 2500000 −11.2[16] 24000 11.18 (combined A1a + A1b) 42000
LHO 146 2500000 −11.2 26000 8.7 ~35000
J004444.52 (in M31) 2400000 -11.2[11] 2550000 7000-18000
WR 25 (in Carina Nebula)[e] 2400000 −11.2[15] 6800 8.80 50100 / ?
Melnick 34 B (BAT99-116 in LMC) 2690000 −11.2[17] 160000 13.09 (combined) 53000
Arches-F6 2300000 −11.1 25000 33900
Arches-F9 2300000 −11.1 25000 36600
Var 83 (in M33) 2240000 −11.1[19] 3000000 16.40 1800037000
HD 5980A[f] (in SMC) 2200000 −11.1[20] 200000 11.7 2100053000
HD 269810 (in LMC) 2200000 −11.1[21] 170000 12.28 52500
Cygnus OB2-516 2200000 −11.1 5000 11.84[22]
BAT99-96 (in LMC) 2200000 −11.1[6] 160000 13.76
WR 89 2140000 −11.1[15] 9400 11.02 39800
G0.058+0.014 2140000 −11.1[7] 26000
R136a5 (in LMC) 2089000 −11.0 165000 13.71 ~50000[16]
LBV 1806-20 2000000 −11.0 28000 1800032000
Arches-F4 2000000 −11.0 25000 36800
WR 147[g] 2000000 −11.0[15] 2100 14.89 39800
Arches-F7 2000000 −11.0 25000 32900
Arches-F1 2000000 −11.0 25000 33200
WR 22 A (V429 Carinae; in Carina Nebula) 2000000 −11.0 8200 6.42 44700
AFGL 2298[h] 2000000 −11.25[2] 33000
R136b (in LMC) 1995000 −11.0 165000 13.24 41000
G0.114+0.021 1950000 −11.0[7] 26000
R136a8 (in LMC) 1905000 −10.9 165000 14.42 51000[16]
Cygnus OB2 #12 1900000 −10.9[23] 5000 11.4 13700
WR 31a 1820000 −10.9 26000 10.85 30200
Wray 17-96 1800000 −10.9[24] 15000 17.8 13000
V2180 Cygni (WR 130) 1800000 −10.9[15] 8800 12.14 44700
HD 5980B (in SMC) 1800000 −10.9[20] 200000 11.9 45000
V4650 Sagittarii 1770000 −10.9[25] 25000 11300
VFTS 506 (in LMC) 1750000 −10.9[26] 160000 13.31 55000[27]
VFTS 16 (LMC) 1700000 −10.8[26] 160000 13.55
Cygnus OB2 #7 1700000 −10.8 5000 12.7
BAT99-122 (R147 in LMC) 1700000 −10.7[6] 160000 12.75
AF Andromedae (in M31) 1600000 −10.8[19] 2500000 17.325[12] 28000
LHO 110 1600000 −10.8[18] 26000 25100
Pistol Star 1600000 −10.75 25000 11800
WR 107 1600000 −10.75[15] 13400 14.1 50100
WR 87 1600000 −10.8[15] 9400 11.95 44700
WR 148 1600000 −10.75[15] 27100 10.3 39800
Arches-F12 1580000 −10.8 25000 36900
WR 102i 1500000 −10.7[18] 26000 31600
NGC 3603-A1b 1500000 −10.6[16] 24000 11.18 (combined A1a + A1b) 40000
AG Carinae 1500000 −10.3[28] 6000 5.7 to 9.0 800026000
HD 93129A (in Carina Nebula)[i] 1480000 −11.25 7500 7.310 42500
Arches-F15 1410000 −10.6 25000 35600
WR 131 1400000 −10.6[15] 38600 12.08 44700
VFTS 621 (in LMC) 1400000 −10.6[26] 160000 15.39 54000[27]
LHO 100 1400000 −10.6 26000 9.4 35000
S Doradus (in LMC) 1400000 -10.0 169000 20000
AB8A (in SMC) 1400000 −10.6[20] 200000 12.9 (combined) 141000
WR 66 1400000 −10.6[15] 10700 11.34 44700
Cygnus OB2-771 1400000 −10.6 5000
R126 (in LMC) 1400000 −10.6 160000 10.91 22500
V729 Cygni A 1400000 −10.6 5000
BAT99-100 (R134 in LMC) 1400000 −10.5[6] 160000 12.02 47000[6]
Tr 27-27 1350000 −10.5[14] 8200
R139 A (in LMC) 1300000 −10.5[29] 160000 12.0 (combined)
V729 Cygni B 1300000 −10.5 5000
HD 50064 1260000 −10.5[30] 9500 8.21 13500
Arches-F3 1260000 −10.5 25000 29600
Arches-F8 1260000 −10.5 25000 32900
AB7A (in SMC) 1259000 −10.4 197000 13.016 105000
VFTS 259 (in LMC) 1250000 −10.5[26] 160000 13.65
WR 102d[18] 1200000 −10.4 26000 10.5 35100
LHO 77 1200000 −10.4 26000 9.6 35000
G0.121-0.099 1150000 −10.4[7] 26000
WR 158 1150000 −10.4[15] 26000 11.24 44700
Arches-F18 1120000 −10.4 25000
BAT99-104 (in LMC) 1100000 −10.4[6] 160000 12.5 63000[6]
Cygnus OB2 #8B 1100000 −10.4 5000 12.7 39200
Cygnus OB2 #10 1100000 −10.4 5000 12.7
Cygnus OB2 #22[g] 1100000 −10.4 5000 12.7
Var B (in M33) 1100000 −10.4[19] 3000000 16.208[12]
HD 93403A 1050000 10000 7.3 39300
68 Cygni A 1050000 −10.3[31] 4600 4.98 to 5.09 34000
HD 93250 (in Carina Nebula) 1039000 −10.3[14] 7500 7.50 46000
BAT99-94 (R135 in LMC) 1000000 −10.3[32] 160000 14.52 141000[6]
HD 229059 1000000 −10.3[14] 3200[33] 8.70 26300[14]
Arches-F2 1000000 −10.25 25000 33500
BAT99-68 (in LMC) 1000000 −10.25[6] 160000 12.4 45000[6]
Arches-F14 1000000 −10.25 25000 34500
The following naked-eye stars are listed for the purpose of comparison.
P Cygni 610000 −9.7 5900 4.8 18700
ζ Puppis 550000800000 −9.0 1090 2.21 4000044000
RW Cephei 550000 −9.11 11500 6.52 4015
ρ Cassiopeiae ~500000 −9.6 3400 4.1 to 6.2 57777200
Alnilam 389000832000 −9.2 1300 1.70 27000
μ Cephei (the Garnet Star) 283000 −9.08 2840 4.04 3750
VY Canis Majoris ~270000[34] −9.4[35] 3900 6.5 to 9.6 3490±90
Plaskett's star A 224000 −8.6 6600 6.06 (A + B) 33500±2000
θ1 Orionis C 204000 −8.6 1500 5.13 39000±1000
VV Cephei A 200000 −9.0 4900 4.91 3826
Deneb 196000 −8.38[36] 2600 1.25 8525±75
Betelgeuse 126000 −8.00[37] 643 0.58 3590
Rigel 120000 −7.84 860 0.12 12100±150
Antares 97000 −7.2 600 0.92 3570
Canopus 15100 −5.53 310 −0.74 6998
Bellatrix 9211 −2.78 250 1.64 22000
Polaris Aa 1260 −3.6 433 1.97 6015
Aldebaran 518 −0.63 65 0.85 3910
Arcturus 170 −0.31 37 −0.04 4286±30
Capella Aa 78.7 0.4 42 0.08 4970±50
Vega 40.12 0.58 25 0.00 9602±180
Sirius A 25.4 1.4 8.6 −1.46 9940
α Centauri A 1.519 4.38 4.4 −0.01 5790
Sun (Sol) 1.00 4.83 0 −26.74 5772
  1. ^ Luminous Blue Variable in external galaxy NGC 2363, that appears to be undergoing a "great outburst" like Eta Carinae but less luminous.
  2. ^ Identified as a binary system, or possibly three stars. The secondary is also luminous at around 1,000,000 times the Sun, but almost completely swamped by the primary.
  3. ^ Binary system containing two luminous WNh stars.
  4. ^ The paper mistakenly lists the blometric magnitude as −10.5 instead of −11.5.
  5. ^ 208-day binary
  6. ^ Variable, luminosity was five times higher at outburst in 1994.
  7. ^ a b This is a binary system but the secondary is much less luminous than the primary.
  8. ^ Luminous Blue Variable, peak luminosity shown.
  9. ^ This is a known binary with two fairly similar components, but the exact details of each star are not clear. Although the luminosity of the two combined is around 2,100,000, the primary is most likely nearer 1,500,000 and the secondary about 600,000.

Note that even the most luminous stars are much less luminous than the more luminous persistent extragalactic objects, such as quasars. For example, 3C 273 has an average apparent magnitude of 12.8 (when observing with a telescope), but an absolute magnitude of −26.7. If this object were 10 parsecs away from Earth it would appear nearly as bright in the sky as the Sun (apparent magnitude −26.74). This quasar's luminosity is, therefore, about 2 trillion (1012) times that of the Sun, or about 100 times that of the total light of average large galaxies like our Milky Way. (Note that quasars often vary somewhat in luminosity.)

In terms of gamma rays, a magnetar (type of neutron star) called SGR 1806-20, had an extreme burst reach Earth on 27 December 2004. It was the brightest event known to have impacted this planet from an origin outside the Solar System; if these gamma rays were visible, with an absolute magnitude of approx. −29, it would be brighter than the Sun (as measured by the Swift spacecraft).

The Gamma-ray burst GRB 971214 measured in 1998 was at the time thought to be the most energetic event in the observable universe, with the equivalent energy of several hundred supernovae. Later studies pointed out that the energy was probably the energy of one supernova which had been "beamed" towards Earth by the geometry of a relativistic jet.

See also


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External links

AFGL 2298

AFGL 2298, also known as IRAS 18576+0341, is a luminous blue variable star (LBV) located in the constellation Aquila, very close to the galactic plane. Its distance is not well known; it may be anywhere between 23,000 and 42,000 light years (7,000 to 13,000 parsecs) away from the Earth. Despite being extremely luminous, it is extremely reddened by interstellar extinction, so its apparent magnitude is brighter for longer-wavelength passbands; in fact, in visual wavelengths it is completely undetectable.AFGL 2298 has an absolute bolometric magnitude of −11.25, making it one of the most luminous stars known. Indeed, many of the hottest and most luminous stars known are luminous blue variables and other early-type stars. However, like all LBVs, AFGL 2298 is highly variable and the bolometric magnitude refers to its peak luminosity. Its status as an LBV was confirmed in 2003.Like most extremely massive stars, AFGL 2298 is undergoing mass loss. For example, in 2005 it was estimated to be losing 3.7×10−5 solar masses each year, although the rate of mass loss itself varies frequently and dramatically. The stellar mass is currently being ejected as a nebula around the star (similar to AG Carinae), which was imaged by the Very Large Telescope in 2010. The nebula was found to be fairly circular, and the properties of the dust appeared to be constant throughout the entire nebula.

Absolute magnitude

Absolute magnitude (M) is a measure of the luminosity of a celestial object, on an inverse logarithmic astronomical magnitude scale. An object's absolute magnitude is defined to be equal to the apparent magnitude that the object would have if it were viewed from a distance of exactly 10.0 parsecs (32.6 light-years), without extinction (or dimming) of its light due to absorption by interstellar matter and cosmic dust. By hypothetically placing all objects at a standard reference distance from the observer, their luminosities can be directly compared on a magnitude scale.

As with all astronomical magnitudes, the absolute magnitude can be specified for different wavelength ranges corresponding to specified filter bands or passbands; for stars a commonly quoted absolute magnitude is the absolute visual magnitude, which uses the visual (V) band of the spectrum (in the UBV photometric system). Absolute magnitudes are denoted by a capital M, with a subscript representing the filter band used for measurement, such as MV for absolute magnitude in the V band.

The more luminous an object, the smaller the numerical value of its absolute magnitude. A difference of 5 magnitudes between the absolute magnitudes of two objects corresponds to a ratio of 100 in their luminosities, and a difference of n magnitudes in absolute magnitude corresponds to a luminosity ratio of 100(n/5). For example, a star of absolute magnitude MV=3.0 would be 100 times more luminous than a star of absolute magnitude MV=8.0 as measured in the V filter band. The Sun has absolute magnitude MV=+4.83. Highly luminous objects can have negative absolute magnitudes: for example, the Milky Way galaxy has an absolute B magnitude of about −20.8.An object's absolute bolometric magnitude (Mbol) represents its total luminosity over all wavelengths, rather than in a single filter band, as expressed on a logarithmic magnitude scale. To convert from an absolute magnitude in a specific filter band to absolute bolometric magnitude, a bolometric correction (BC) is applied.For Solar System bodies that shine in reflected light, a different definition of absolute magnitude (H) is used, based on a standard reference distance of one astronomical unit.


BAT99-98 is a star in the Large Magellanic Cloud. It is located near the R136 cluster in the 30 Doradus nebula. At 226 M☉ and 5,000,000 L☉ it is the third most massive and the fifth most luminous star known.

CW Leonis

IRC +10216 or CW Leonis is a well-studied carbon star that is embedded in a thick dust envelope. It was first discovered in 1969 by a group of astronomers led by Eric Becklin, based upon infrared observations made with the 62 inches (1.6 m) Caltech Infrared Telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory. Its energy is emitted mostly at infrared wavelengths. At a wavelength of 5 μm, it was found to have the highest flux of any object outside the Solar System.

HD 15558

HD 15558 (HIP 11832) is a massive O-type multiple star system in the constellation of Cassiopeia. It is located in the Heart Nebula in open cluster IC 1805. The primary is a very massive star with 152 M☉ and 660,000 L☉.

LSS 4067

LSS 4067, also known as CD−38° 11748, is an O-type blue supergiant star located in the constellation Scorpius, very close to the galactic plane. It is part of the open cluster HM 1, although its distance is not well known; it may be anywhere between 9,500 and 12,700 light years (2900 to 3900 parsecs) away from the Earth. Despite being a blue supergiant, it is extremely reddened by interstellar extinction, so its apparent magnitude is brighter for longer-wavelength passbands.LSS 4067 has an absolute bolometric magnitude of −11.4, making it one of the most luminous stars known. Indeed, many of the hottest and most luminous stars known are O-type supergiants, or Wolf-Rayet stars. LSS 4067 has an unusual spectrum, with various emission lines including N III and He II emission lines, thus the "f" in its spectral type. Because of this unusual spectrum, classifying the star or deducing its properties has proved relatively difficult: for example, the effective temperature is predicted to be too cool and the surface gravity too high.

List of brightest stars

This is a list of stars down to magnitude +2.50, as determined by their maximum, total, or combined visual magnitudes as viewed from Earth. Although several of the brightest stars are known binary or multiple star systems and are relatively close to Earth, they appear to the naked eye as single stars. The list below combines/adds the magnitudes of bright individual components. Most of the proper names in this list are those approved by the Working Group on Star Names. Popular star names here that have not been approved by the IAU appear with a short note.

List of hottest stars

This is a list of hottest stars so far discovered (excluding degenerate stars), arranged by decreasing temperature. The stars with temperatures higher than 60,000 K are included.

List of star extremes

A star is a sphere that is mainly composed of hydrogen and plasma, held together by gravity and is able to produce light through nuclear fusion. Stars exhibit many diverse properties, resulting from different masses, volumes, velocities, stage in stellar evolution and even proximity to earth. Some of these properties are considered extreme and sometimes disproportionate by astronomers.

List of stars more luminous than any closer star

This is a list of stars which are more luminous than any closer star, that is, stars which emit more radiation than any other star within the same distance of the Sun. The luminosities are measured in bolometric luminosity and not by visual luminosity. For example, Alpha Centauri A is the most luminous star within 5 light-years of the Sun. In order to find a star more luminous than α Cen, the radius would have to be extended out to 9 light years, to include Sirius. The closest star more luminous than Sirius is Vega, at 25 light years, and so on.

Lists of astronomical objects

This is a list of lists, grouped by type of astronomical object.

Lists of extreme points

This is a list of lists of the points that are the farthest, highest, lowest, greatest or least.

Lists of stars

The following are lists of stars. These are astronomical objects that spend some portion of their existence generating energy through thermonuclear fusion.


In astronomy, luminosity is the total amount of energy emitted per unit of time by a star, galaxy, or other astronomical object. As a term for energy emitted per unit time, luminosity is synonymous with power.In SI units luminosity is measured in joules per second or watts. Values for luminosity are often given in the terms of the luminosity of the Sun, L⊙. Luminosity can also be given in terms of the astronomical magnitude system: the absolute bolometric magnitude (Mbol) of an object is a logarithmic measure of its total energy emission rate, while absolute magnitude is a logarithmic measure of the luminosity within some specific wavelength range or filter band.

In contrast, the term brightness in astronomy is generally used to refer to an object's apparent brightness: that is, how bright an object appears to an observer. Apparent brightness depends on both the luminosity of the object and the distance between the object and observer, and also on any absorption of light along the path from object to observer. Apparent magnitude is a logarithmic measure of apparent brightness. The distance determined by luminosity measures can be somewhat ambiguous, and is thus sometimes called the luminosity distance.

Outline of astronomy

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to astronomy:

Astronomy – studies the universe beyond Earth, including its formation and development, and the evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and motion of celestial objects (such as galaxies, planets, etc.) and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth (such as the cosmic background radiation).

Pistol Star

The Pistol Star is a blue hypergiant star; one of the most luminous known in the Milky Way. It is one of many massive young stars in the Quintuplet cluster in the Galactic Center region. The star owes its name to the shape of the Pistol Nebula, which it illuminates. It is located approximately 25,000 light years from Earth in the direction of Sagittarius. It would be visible to the naked eye as a fourth magnitude star if it were not for the interstellar dust that completely hides it from view in visible light.

Var B

Var B may refer to:

B-type variable star

Variable declaration of "b" in computer programming

M33 Var B, see List of most luminous stars

Var C

Var C may refer to:

Variable c, variable speed of light

variable declaration of "c" in computer programming

C variable types and declarations

M33 Var C, see List of most luminous stars

WR 102ka

WR 102ka, also known as the Peony star, is a Wolf–Rayet star that is one of several candidates for the most luminous-known star in the Milky Way.

Star systems
Related articles

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