Stars swinging by (each other)

Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/J.J. Tobin (University of Oklahoma/Leiden University)

For the first time, astronomers have seen a dusty disc of material around a young star fragmenting into a multiple star system. This image comprises new observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), Chile, and reveals the process in action!

Stars form in cosmic clouds of gas and dust, when the thin material in the clouds collapses gravitationally into denser cores that in turn draw additional material inward. The infalling material forms a rotating disc around the young star, and is slowly consumed. Eventually, the young star gathers enough mass to create the necessary temperatures and pressures at its centre to trigger nuclear fusion.

Stars that have no companion — such as the Sun — are not as common as we once thought. In fact, almost half of the stars in our galaxy have at least one companion, and some are more sociable still! Previous studies have indicated that the stars in multiple systems tend to be either relatively close to each other, within about 500 times the Earth-Sun distance (known as an Astronomical Unit or AU), or significantly further apart, at over 1000 AU. … (ESO)

Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/J.J. Tobin (University of Oklahoma/Leiden University)

ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/J.J. Tobin (University of Oklahoma/Leiden University)

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