Tonight's Sky
Sun
Sun
Moon
Moon
Mercury
Mercury
Venus
Venus
Mars
Mars
Jupiter
Jupiter
Saturn
Saturn

Tonight's Sky — Change location

OR

Searching...

Tonight's Sky — Select location

Tonight's Sky — Enter coordinates

° '
° '

Astronomers spot massive twin stars nestled close together

These two stars are only as far apart as Neptune is from the Sun.
BinaryFormation
Binary stars often form in pairs from the same initial cloud of dust and gas.
B. Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF
Researchers have found two massive young stars nestled closer together than anything astronomers have seen so far. By studying PDS 27 and its companion, located about 8,000 light-years from Earth, astronomers hope to learn more about how stars like this form and evolve.

Something like half the stars in our galaxy orbit in pairs, triplets, or even quadruple-star systems. And scientists suspect that nearly all stars may form in multiples before splitting apart as they age. This is because stars form in groups, with the massive clouds of dust and gas that give birth to stars – stellar nebulae – forming thousands of stars in brief periods. Often these stars are born close enough to orbit one another, and that’s why stellar twins and triplets are quite common in the universe. High-mass stars in particular, like PDS 27, are almost always born with companions.

But even these sibling stars often orbit something like 1,000 astronomical units (AU; one AU is the average Earth-Sun distance) from each other. This is farther than any of the planets in our solar system orbit the Sun, and somewhere near the inner edge of the Oort Cloud of comets that surrounds us.

Mature stars sometimes spiral in to extremely close distances, close enough to steal material from one another. But scientists have never seen two young stars like PDS 27 and its companion, which orbit only 30 AU from each other, about the distance between the Sun and Neptune. Researchers, who published their findings March 11 in Astronomy & Astrophysics, used the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer to spot the pair.

Part of the rarity of such a system is that massive stars like PDS 27 don’t live very long – only a few tens of millions of years, compared to the roughly 10-billion-year life expectancy of the Sun. Stars more than ten times the mass of the Sun also evolve differently than medium- or small-mass stars. So catching sight of such massive stars at a young age can teach astronomers a lot about these objects. Astronomers now want to know how the presence of the companion affects the star’s evolution.
0

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Read and share your comments on this article
Comment on this article
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of Astronomy.com are allowed to comment on this article. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
0 comments
ADVERTISEMENT

FREE EMAIL NEWSLETTER

Receive news, sky-event information, observing tips, and more from Astronomy's weekly email newsletter. View our Privacy Policy.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
asy_darkmatter_300x250

Click here to download a FREE Women in Astronomy PDF curated by Astronomy magazine.

Find us on Facebook