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

Posted: March 19, 2019 by oldbrew in Astrophysics, research
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Pairs or multiple systems of stars which orbit their common center of mass. If we can measure and understand their orbital motion, we can estimate the stellar masses.

How does this work? The two massive stars in question are orbiting each other at a distance of 180 AU (astronomical units), six times greater than that of Neptune to the Sun. Each orbit may take nearly 600 years.

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, reports Phys.org.

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 is 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.

Full report here.

Comments
  1. erl happ says:

    orbiting each other at a distance of 180 AU (astronomical units), six times greater than that of Neptune to the Sun.

    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.

    Hmm.

  2. oldbrew says:

    erl – what they must mean is that 1 astronomical unit is the distance from the Earth to the sun.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t quite read like that :/

    update: I’ve added ‘is’ after ‘unit’ in the blog post.

  3. Oldbrew, it appears from articles, papers and presentations by “true scientists” who maybe described by believers to be sceptics that that in astronomy the situation is comparable to so-called climate science ie there is a scam to get more research money by people who issue all sorts of claims which can not be proved. I have noted that in the standard (Newtonian) universe and even in the Einstein relativist model “black holes” can not exist. They can not have zero and a positive escape velocity at the same time. They can not be a point source with zero mass but some high gravity which does not allow escape of EM radiation some of the time.. The universe can not be infinite and finite at the same time. The idea of a singlel big bang forming a finite expanding universe from nothing does not make sense particularly with the standard model. LIGO has been a hundreds of millions (or is it billions) of dollar failure. No body knows what gravity is other than in someway it is related to mass. No one has proved gravity waves. There are doubts about Einsteins E=mc^2 equation. There are doubts that c the speed of light in a vacuum is a constant. Light is absorbed by water so the speed in water certainly is not a constant.. What about dark matter? does it exist and does it vary in concentration. It appears that there is a background temperature in the solar system. Is that due to dark matter or due to some EM waves. Is the article just made up to ask for more money to installed telescopes, more computers, offices and higher pay for researchers?

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