A mortal kiss between stars
10-26-2015

An international team of astronomers, including several researchers from the Center for Astrobiology, has discovered VFTS352, a very hot and massive double star system located in our own galaxy. Specifically, it is 160,000 light years away, in the Tarantula Nebula, and it is a binary contact system similar to MY Camelopardalis (MY Cam). The difference is that, in the case of VFTS352 , the stars are already sharing mass, while the components of MY Cam are simply rubbing together.

Thanks to ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) , located in In the Atacama desert, in Chile, it has been observed that the star centers that make up the VFTS352 are separated by only 12 million kilometers and, in fact, a bridge has been formed between the two stars. VFTS352 has a combined mass of about 57 times that of the Sun, so it is the most massive binary contact system known. In addition, it contains the hottest components, with surface temperatures that exceed 40,000 degrees Celsius.

Through the recent studies of VFTS352 and MY Cam, you can explore aspects of the life and death of very massive stars, for which no direct evidence was available to date.


The two possible endings
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According to astronomers, it is possible that these systems can not sustain this phase of peaceful coexistence and the young stars that compose them merge into a single star. It is one of the scenarios contemplated for the formation of extremely massive stars. Another possibility is that the components of the systems end their lives as supernova explosions, giving rise to two black holes orbiting one another.

The search for systems like VFTS352 and MY Cam continues with the objective of determining with what probability one or the other end will be given, in both cases dramatic. In any case, his observation is a great step forward for the field of stellar astrophysics, given that extreme stars play a fundamental role in the evolution of galaxies and are believed to be the main producers of elements such as oxygen.



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