Kissing Double Star

Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

Astronomers have faced a very rare cosmic phenomenon in which two stars are touching and are about to end their lives in a very dramatic way.

In this kiss for goodbye are involved the most massive and hottest stars in a double system of this type among the few discovered by scientists so far. The system of “suns” has been marked as VFTS 352 and is located 160 000 light-years away from us in the Large Magellanic Cloud – a small galaxy “follower” our Milky Way Galaxy.

Large Magellanic Cloud

Stars in VFTS 352 are so close that circle each other only for a day and share up to 1/3 of its matter. Pairs of this type in which two stars exchange material between them, scientists call super-contact binary system (see the video below).

The stars in VFTS 352 are young, and their total mass is 57 times greater than that of our own Sun. At the same time their surface is almost 7 times hotter and the temperature exceed 40,000 degrees Celsius. Scientists say stars like these play a key role in the evolution of galaxies and are a major manufacturer of the essential element for life on Earth – oxygen.

According to scientists there is two possible equally dramatic finals of this cosmic connection.The first potential outcome is the merging of the two stars, which would likely produce a rapidly rotating, and possibly magnetic, gigantic single star.

The second possibility is explained by the lead theoretical astrophysicist in the team, Selma de Mink of University of Amsterdam:

“If the stars are mixed well enough, they both remain compact and the VFTS 352 system may avoid merging. This would lead the objects down a new evolutionary path that is completely different from classic stellar evolution predictions. In the case of VFTS 352, the components would likely end their lives in supernova explosions, forming a close binary system of black holes. Such a remarkable object would be an intense source of gravitational waves.”

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