Astronomers have identified the three biggest stars known to science.
If they were located in the same place as our own Sun – at the centre of the Solar System – the stars would stretch out further than the orbit of Jupiter.
The red “supergiant” stars are more than 1.5 billion km across, pushing the previous record holder, Herschel’s “Garnet Star”, into fourth place.
The new research was presented on Monday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego, US.
The three enormous stars from the study are KW Sagitarii (9,800 light-years away), V354 Cephei (9,000 light-years away), and KY Cygni (5,200 light-years away).
Astronomers compared a sample of 74 red supergiants in the Milky Way.
The international team made new observations of the stars from the 2.1m (84 inch) telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, and the 1.5m (60 inch) telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, in Chile.
With close stars, scientists can calculate stellar sizes from their temperatures and luminosities.