Nav: Home

Spiraling giants: Eitnessing the birth of a massive binary star system

March 18, 2019

Scientists from the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research in Japan, Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and the University of Virginia in the USA and collaborators have made observations of a molecular cloud that is collapsing to form two massive protostars that will eventually become a binary star system.

While it is known that most massive stars possess orbiting stellar companions it has been unclear how this comes about - for example, are the stars born together from a common spiraling gas disk at the center of a collapsing cloud, or do they pair up later by chance encounters in a crowded star cluster.

Understanding the dynamics of forming binaries has been difficult because the protostars in these systems are still enveloped in a thick cloud of gas and dust that prevents most light from escaping. Fortunately, it is possible to see them using radio waves, as long as they can be imaged with sufficiently high spatial resolution.

In the current research, published in Nature Astronomy, the researchers led by Yichen Zhang of the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research and Jonathan C. Tan at Chalmers University and the University of Virginia, used the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope array in northern Chile to observe, at high spatial resolution, a star-forming region known as IRAS07299-1651, which is located 1.68 kiloparsecs, or about 5,500 light years, away.

The observations showed that already at this early stage, the cloud contains two objects, a massive "primary" central star and another "secondary" forming star, also of high mass. For the first time, the research team were able to use these observations to deduce the dynamics of the system. The observations showed that the two forming stars are separated by a distance of about 180 astronomical units--a unit approximately the distance from the earth to the sun. Hence, they are quite far apart. They are currently orbiting each other with a period of at most 600 years, and have a total mass at least 18 times that of our sun.

According to Zhang, "This is an exciting finding because we have long been perplexed by the question of whether stars form into binaries during the initial collapse of the star-forming cloud or whether they are created during later stages. Our observations clearly show that the division into binary stars takes place early on, while they are still in their infancy."

Another finding of the study was that the binary stars are being nurtured from a common disk fed by the collapsing cloud and favoring a scenario in which the secondary star of the binary formed as a result of fragmentation of the disk originally around the primary. This allows the initially smaller secondary protostar to "steal" infalling matter from its sibling and eventually they should emerge as quite similar "twins".

Tan adds, "This is an important result for understanding the birth of massive stars. Such stars are important throughout the universe, not least for producing, at the ends of their lives, the heavy elements that make up our Earth and are in our bodies."

Zhang concludes, "What is important now is to look at other examples to see whether this is a unique situation or something that is common for the birth of all massive stars."
-end-


RIKEN

Related Massive Stars Articles:

Cloning thousands of genes for massive protein libraries
Discovering the function of a gene requires cloning a DNA sequence and expressing it.
ALMA hears birth cry of a massive baby star
An international research team led by a Japanese astronomer has determined how the enigmatic gas flow from a massive baby star is launched.
RIT scientists measure black hole's tilt and spin for clues to how massive stars die
RIT scientists working with the LIGO Scientific Collaboration measured and interpreted the spin and alignment of a newly formed black hole detected on Jan.
Astronomers identify purest, most massive brown dwarf
An international team of astronomers has identified a record breaking brown dwarf (a star too small for nuclear fusion) with the 'purest' composition and the highest mass yet known.
Bristol and BT collaborate on massive MIMO trials for 5G wireless
The quest for highly efficient 5G wireless connectivity has been given a boost thanks to a collaboration between a team of 5G engineers from the Universities of Bristol and Lund, National Instruments (NI), and BT, one of the world's leading providers of communications services.
A new species of gecko with massive scales and tear-away skin
Many lizards can drop their tails when grabbed, but one group of geckos has gone to particularly extreme lengths to escape predation.
The birth of massive stars is accompanied by strong luminosity bursts
'How do massive stars form?' is one of the fundamental questions in modern astrophysics, because these massive stars govern the energy budget of their host galaxies.
Massive MIMO, massive win for Bristol student at NI Engineering Impact Awards
A postgraduate student from the University of Bristol is the joint recipient of five separate awards in recognition of their world record achievement in 5G wireless spectrum efficiency using Massive MIMO.
Measuring the Milky Way: 1 massive problem, 1 new solution
It is a galactic challenge, to be sure, but Gwendolyn Eadie is getting closer to an accurate answer to a question that has defined her early career in astrophysics: what is the mass of the Milky Way?
Dark matter satellites trigger massive birth of stars
Laura Sales, an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside's Department of Physics and Astronomy, collaborated with Tjitske Starkenburg and Amina Helmi, both of the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in The Netherlands, to present a novel analysis of computer simulations, based on theoretical models, that study the interaction of a dwarf galaxy with a dark satellite.

Related Massive Stars Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#530 Why Aren't We Dead Yet?
We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak about his book "Why Aren't We Dead Yet?: The Survivor’s Guide to the Immune System".