Somewhere in the depths of our universe, a stellar ballet is underway.
Against the dark curtain of space, three huge twinkling stars are locked in a dance by their own gravitational forces and shine in their common luminescence. Two of these flaming balls of gas orbit closely around each other, completing their mutual orbit at the rate of an Earth day. Simultaneously, the third star of the show regularly circles the duo, shining the spotlight on this dazzling performance.
Details of the cosmic situation can be found in an article published in June in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
“As far as we know, this is the first of its kind ever detected,” said Alejandro Vigna-Gomez, an astrophysicist at the University of Copenhagen and co-author of the paper, on Monday.
Even though we know of many Tertiary star systems, according to Vigna-Gomez, not only are they much more distant than this sparkling trio, but they are also generally less massive. A little.
According to the new paper, nearby inner binary stars hold a combined mass about 12 times that of our sun, and the wide-field globe surrounding them has a whopping 16 times the mass of our sun. For context, it would take over 330,000 Earths to match one solar mass, a quantity that comprises 99.8% of the mass of our the whole solar system. Simply put, these stellar ballet flats are absolutely colossal.
But in the grand scheme of things, Vigna-Gomez wanted to do more than just identify this unusual star arrangement. The goal was to decode precisely how such a fierce triplet – formally dubbed TIC 470710327 – came together in the first place.
A missing ballerina
Along with fellow researcher Bin Liu, a theoretical astrophysicist also affiliated with the University of Copenhagen, Vigna-Gomez first proposed several options for the backstory of the newly observed three-star system.
Above all, there was the idea that the larger outer star formed first. However, this option ultimately failed because, after some research, the team realized that such a starry leviathan would likely have ejected materials inward that would disrupt binary star formation. There would have been no trio. There would have been gaseous rubble pouring out in all directions.
Second, the team considered that the Binary Star Dancers and the Third Star Viewer could have formed separately – away from each other – and then eventually fallen together by some force of gravity. While this particular scenario hasn’t been fully ruled out yet, researchers believe it may not be the best one yet. They are much more focused on the final and preferred possibility. A little less collaborative.
What if two individual binary star systems formed near each other, the researchers wondered, then maybe one of those pairs would merge into a giant star? If true, this massive combo star would be the outer star we see today, orbiting the smaller – but still huge – star duo.
In other words, it could be that a fourth dancer is part of this cosmic ballet, only to have unfortunately been devoured by his own partner before the final scene. Well, according to the team’s new research – based on tons of computer models and fascinatingly rooted in the findings of citizen scientists – that case was the most likely.
“But one model is not enough,” Vigna-Gomez said, saying that to prove his and Liu’s suspicions with high certainty would require either using telescopes to study the tertiary system in more detail or statistically analyzing the populations. nearby stars.
“We also encourage members of the scientific community to review the data in depth,” Liu said in a statement. “What we really want to know is if this type of system is common in our universe.”