Somewhere in the depths of our universe is a star ballet.
Against the background of the dark veil of space, three huge sparkling stars are frozen in a dance under the influence of their own gravitational forces and shine with a common glow. Two such flaming balls of gas revolve tightly around each other, completing their mutual orbit in the rhythm of the Earth’s day. At the same time, the third star of the show is steadily surrounding the couple, drawing attention to this dazzling performance.
Details of the space situation can be found in an article published in June in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first discovery of its kind,” Alejandro Viña-Gómez, an astrophysicist at the University of Copenhagen and co-author of the paper, said on Monday.
Despite what we know about many tertiary star systems, according to Viña-Gomez, they are not only much farther apart than this brilliant trio, but also usually less massive. Very little.
The inner nearby binaries have a combined mass of about 12 times that of our Sun, while the wide-angle orb surrounding them boasts 16 times that of our Sun, according to a new paper. For context, it would take over 330,000 Earths to fit the mass of a single Sun, which is 99.8% of our planet’s mass. the entire solar system. Simply put, these star ballerinas are simply colossal.
But by and large, Viña-Gómez pursued much more than just identifying this unusual star location. The goal was to decipher exactly how such a violent trio, officially named TIC 470710327, came about.
Together with fellow researcher Bing Liu, a theoretical astrophysicist also at the University of Copenhagen, Viña-Gómez has for the first time proposed several versions of the prehistory of the newly discovered three-star system.
First of all, there was the idea that the larger outer star formed first. However, this option ultimately failed because, after some investigation, the team realized that such a stellar leviathan had likely thrown material inside that would have disrupted binary star formation. There would be no three. Gaseous debris would fly in all directions.
Second, the team speculated that the binary dancer stars and the third spectator star could have formed separately — far apart — and then ended up collapsing together under some kind of gravitational force. While this particular scenario has not yet been completely ruled out, the researchers believe it still may not be the best. They are much more focused on the last and preferred option. Slightly less collaborative.
The researchers wondered if two separate binary star systems formed next to each other, then perhaps one of these pairs merged into a giant star? If true, then this massive combined star would be the outer one we see today, orbiting a smaller but still huge stellar duo.
In other words, it’s entirely possible that the fourth dancer was part of this cosmic ballet, but was unfortunately eaten by his partner before the final scene. Well, as for the team’s new study, based on a variety of computer models and fascinatingly based on the discoveries of citizen scientists, this was the most likely case.
“But a model is not enough,” Viña-Gomez said, arguing that confirming his and Liu’s suspicions with a high degree of certainty would require either using telescopes to study the tertiary system in more detail, or statistical analysis of nearby stellar populations.
“We also encourage people in the scientific community to take a close look at the data,” Liu said in a statement. “What we really want to know is whether such a system is common in our universe.”
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