Our knowledge of the early lives of stars is limited, but an exciting new observation provides a closer look at how stars are born.
An image that features two circumstellar disks in which baby stars are growing illustrates the first time ever that astronomers have witnessed the complex birth of binary stars in such vivd detail.
Astronomers had already seen a rough outline of the two protostars and their surrounding structures that were captured in the historical image, but these images offer an unprecedented look into the detailed network of gas and dust filaments circling them.
Scientists are hoping that these new observations will shine a light on stars’ mysterious origins. Stars are defined by all kinds of identities, from white dwarfs to blue giants. And stars also take on different social statuses.
And while our star, the Sun, remains the sole provider of Earth’s light, most stars travel in packs where two or more stars are gravitationally bound to one another.
There’s some debate as to why this is, but a recent statistical model suggests that all stars initially form as binaries, then drift apart over a million years.
Even the Sun is thought to have a long-lost twin out there somewhere in the galaxy.
Find out more about this breakthrough in high-tech stargazing and the origins of stars on this episode of Elements.
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Stunning Images Reveal The Complex Birth of Binary Stars For The First Time
"The team estimates that material falls into the binary at a rate of about 0.01 Jupiter masses per year, although one of the stars is more massive, and is therefore slurping up material from its disk at a higher rate."
If Stars Are Born in Pairs, Why Is Ours Single?
"Almost all the binary stars they saw were very young, less than a few hundred thousand years old. Most of the older stars were single, and those that were in binaries were closer together."
Astronomers Glimpse Signposts of Universe’s First Stars
"The further back in time you go, the harder it is to spot stars directly, using instruments such as NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. For starters, there are fewer and fewer stars to find. And until about 500 million years after the Big Bang, the universe was suffused with neutral hydrogen atoms, which are good at blocking light."