Skip to comments.Hottest, heaviest touching double star
Posted on 10/21/2015 3:19:56 PM PDT by LibWhacker
Astronomers say the two stars might be heading for catastrophe. They will likely either merge to create a single giant star or form a double black hole.
We know that many stars in our galaxy are in double or multiple systems, but here are two stars so close they touch. An international team of astronomers said this week (October 21, 2015) that this system known to them as VFTS 352 is the hottest and most massive touching double star system observed so far. Whats more, they said, the two stars might be heading for a catastrophe. The two stars will likely either merge to create a single giant star or form a double black hole.
They used the European Southern Observatorys (ESO) Very Large Telescope to make their observations.
VFTS 352 is located about 160,000 light-years from Earth in the Tarantula Nebula, which itself is in the Large Magellanic Cloud visible from Earths Southern Hemisphere. The Tarantula Nebula is known as the most active region of star formation in the nearby universe, and the VFTS 352 system is said to be:
among the most extreme and strangest yet found.
The two stars of the VFTS 352 system are very hot, bright and massive, and they whirl around each other in slightly more than one Earth-day. Their centers are separated by just 7.5 million miles (12 million km). ESO said in a statement:
In fact, the stars are so close that their surfaces overlap and a bridge has formed between them. VFTS 352 is not only the most massive known in this tiny class of overcontact binaries it has a combined mass of about 57 times that of the sun but it also contains the hottest components with surface temperatures above 40,000 degrees Celsius [ed note: 70,000 degrees Fahrenheit; in contrast to about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit for our suns surface].
Extreme stars like the two components of VFTS 352, play a key role in the evolution of galaxies and are thought to be the main producers of elements such as oxygen. Such double stars are also linked to exotic behavior such as that shown by vampire stars, where a smaller companion star sucks matter from the surface of its larger neighbor.
In the case of VFTS 352, however, both stars in the system are of almost identical size. Material is, therefore, not sucked from one to another, but instead may be shared. The component stars of VFTS 352 are estimated to be sharing about 30 per cent of their material.
These are very massive stars, and thus they burn brightly and quickly, and their lives are short. So catching two such massive stars in the act of touching is rare, and astronomers feel fortunate to have done it.
They say that the two stars of VFTS 352 are facing a dramatic end, with one of two outcomes possible.
The first potential outcome is the merging of the two stars, which would likely produce a rapidly rotating, and possibly magnetic, gigantic single star. Lead scientist of the project, Hugues Sana, of the University of Leuven in Belgium said:
If it keeps spinning rapidly it might end its life in one of the most energetic explosions in the universe, known as a long-duration gamma-ray burst.
The second possibility is explained by the lead theoretical astrophysicist in the team, Selma de Mink of University of Amsterdam:
If the stars are mixed well enough, they both remain compact and the VFTS 352 system may avoid merging. This would lead the objects down a new evolutionary path that is completely different from classic stellar evolution predictions. In the case of VFTS 352, the components would likely end their lives in supernova explosions, forming a close binary system of black holes. Such a remarkable object would be an intense source of gravitational waves.
These astronomers add that:
.Proving the existence of this second evolutionary path would be an observational breakthrough in the field of stellar astrophysics.
Click here to see a 30-second YouTube video simulation of these two stars in orbit about one another.
Bottom line: ESOs Very Large Telescope has found the hottest and most massive touching double star. The system located in the Tarantula Nebula is called VFTS 352. The two stars might eventually either merge to create a single giant star or form a double black hole.
160k light years away. Probably already merged
Oh, no! Not another Obama-Jarret formation!
Love astronomy but keep thinking of a line from “Young Frankenstein”
A three-list ping!
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Extra to APoD.
I’ve gotta call B.S.
“two stars so close they touch.”
“the hottest and most massive touching double star system observed so far.”
So there are more?
“The two stars will likely either merge to create a single giant star or form a double black hole.”
Double black hole that doesn’t engulf the one next to it? They’ve worked out the physics of such a thing?
Watch the video simulation and you can sort of see how it could happen. Doesn't mean it will be able to maintain such an orbit indefinitely, but it could keep it going (as two stars or two black holes) for a while.
Five minutes on the naughty step for you, Kirkwood. :)
I don’t know why, but I feel like we must ping Laz.
The larger star will cannibalize the smaller star, and rather than increasing it’s mass and staying the same size will expand in volume until it pops like an enormous space zit.
Thank you for posting this, Libwhacker - the simulation is fascinating! These astronomers seem like pretty sharp people; I wonder if they’ve been able to predict when the two stars will merge ..
> the two stars might be heading for catastrophe
Those not busy being born are busy dying.
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