eso9619 — Science Release
Sakurai's Object: A Once-in-a-Llifetime Experience
7 March 1996: A bright 'new' star was discovered by Japanese amateur astronomer Yukio Sakurai in late February 1996. It is located in the star-rich, southern constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer) and qualifies to join an extremely select class of stars. In fact, we know only one additional object of this type and the remains of two - possibly three - others. Compared to the 6000 stars in the sky seen with the naked eye, the several millions so far catalogued, and the billions of stars photographed, it is a very special class indeed. Nevertheless, Sakurai's star holds unique information about a dramatic evolutionary state, which all stars must to pass through whose masses are more than a few times that of the Sun, but still too small to produce a supernova explosion. This happens just before they end their active life and cool down into visual oblivion.