Multiple Star System in First Stage of Creation Found by Astronomers

multiple star system

Multiple star systems are abundant throughout the Universe; however, for the first time, astronomers have observed one that is in the first stages of creation. They hope that by locating the system and further observing it, it will allow astronomers to better understand the production and birth of multiple star systems.

The research team looked towards a gaseous cloud located 800 light-years from Earth, targeting on a core source of gas that harbors a young protostar and a triumvirate of dense condensations. They stated the gaseous clouds are predicted to collapse into grown stars in a period of about 40,000 years – an astronomically short time on the cosmic timeline. Although astronomers forecast a potentiality of four stars, they believe it may develop into a stable triple-star system.

Jaime Pineda, a researcher at the Institute for Astronomy in Switzerland, stated that seeing the multiple star system in its early creation stages has been a formidable challenge, the Very Large Array (VLA) and the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) gave them the first look. Scientists utilized the GBT and VLA, together with the assistance of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (a.k.a JCMT), to examine a condensed area of gas (Barnard 5, or B5) where younger stars are developing in the constellation Perseus.

When Pineda, along with his research team, used the VLA to chart emissions from methane molecules, he discovered filaments in B5 are fragmenting, the fragmenting gases are starting to form into extra stars that will become the aforesaid multiple star system. He said he knows the multi star system will eventually form, the observations prove the gas clouds are gravitationally bound. Pineda added it provides great evidence that fragmentation of gaseous filaments is the way in which multiple star systems are formed. Previously, astronomers thought stars were only created by the gravitational collection of gas and dust from an orbiting disk formation.

The clusters of gas, located in B5, will create stars that will be around 0.1 to 0.33 solar masses, the measure regarding the mass of the Sun, scientists said. Moreover, the distances between them will be 3,000 to 11,000 astronomical units (AU), regarding the measure from the Earth to the Sun.

According to the dynamic of the condensations and the analysis thereof, the research team predicts they will form into an inner binary system, orbited by the third star. They suggest the fourth potential star will not remain a part of the system, being pulled apart by the other three stars.

An additional research team, including scientists from the United States and the United Kingdom, reported this as the first time a record can be kept on this type of star formation. Furthermore, according to astronomers, telescopes and other detection technologies will allow an international effort to be undertaken to locate more of these situations, unearthing even more vital information.

Pineda was elated that the VLA and GBT allowed him and his research team to watch the early formation period of the condensations. Almost half of all stars that have been catalogued are multiple-star systems, though none have been observed during the creation stage. Such a revolutionary discovery will give astronomers the important information they desire to form new theories on the formation of multiple star systems.

By: Alex Lemieux


International Business Times

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Washington Post

Picture: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center – License