The biggest science news this week is that astronomers viewed the formation of a multiple-star system thus giving the world of science a quick peek behind what happens before a star is born.
The scene captured by astronomers is an important initial phase during which the number of stars in the system is being determined. Usually, this phase cannot be clearly observed due to the presence of dust clouds and dense gas.
The question many scientists, including Stella Offner, lead author of the study, were trying to find an answer to is:
“Why is our Sun a single star while the nearest star to us, Alpha Centauri, happens to be a triple system?”.
Offner, who is also an astrophysicist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, explained how ‘there are competing models for how multiple star systems are born” but that with the new data acquired during the observation of the multi-star system formation, they will know a little more than they did before.
This research will give scientists the opportunity of understanding why some pre-stellar condensations develop into systems with only one star (like our Solar System) while others form binary or even multi-stellar systems.
The study was conducted using the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico and the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia which allowed the team to watch the formation of this new stellar system within the “stellar nursery” region of the Perseu constellation. During the study, scientists observed three gas condensations which are actually part of a dense gas filament and a young start which is still acquiring mass.
The three gas condensations are expected to each form a star, at least theoretically. Calculations predict this will happen in about 40,000 years which, on an astronomical scale, is actually a short period of time.
Taking into consideration that stars have powerful gravitations, the three gas condensations and the newly formed start will attract each other, probably resulting in a quadruple star system. This phenomenon is highly possible even though, at the moment, the four components are very far apart from each other (at a distance several times greater than the size of our solar system).
Offner explained that the study indicates that our Solar System formed in a different way in comparison to what they observed during the formation of this multiple-star system. She added that the Sun had probably resulted from a more spherical gas condensation, rather than filamentary. In addition to this, the way the planets are distributed around the Sun also suggests that our Solar System was always a one-star unit.
Image Source: Science Daily