Epic mega-star merger spied by astronauts (Wired UK)


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The enigma surrounding the XXL versions of those tiny pinpricks
which dot the night sky are about to be revealed for stargazers. As
by observing the merging of twin monster stars, astronomers have
confirmed the longstanding theory on how jumbo stars are
born. 

In a paper
published in the journal of Astronomy & Astrophysics,
entitled MY Camelopardalis, a very massive merge
progenitor
, Spanish researchers from the Centre of
Astrobiology in the University of Alicante, report that two stars
in the MY Cam system are in such close proximity that they will end
up morphing into a single epically-sized star. 

Noting that several studies have reflected the importance of
colossal stars for the “current properties” of galaxies, the
researchers describe how the two ginormous stars seem to eclipse
each other on a daily basis, as they orbit through space. 

The researchers, headed by Javier Lorenzo of Spain’s Alicante
University, say that more research is needed to understand the physics of mergers. Nonetheless, the data gleaned on the stars through observing their
high-res spectra with powerful 2.2-metre telescopes from the Calar
Alto Observatory in southern Spain, is astonishing. 

So far, the researchers have found that the MY Cam is one of the
most weighty eclipsing binary star systems ever observed. It is
also described as the brightest glowing star in the open cluster
Alicante 1, which researchers say is a “sparsely populated and
situated in a very young cluster” of stars roughly 13,000
light-years from Earth. 

The paper explains that in recent years, the “mergers of
high-mass binaries have been proposed as an effective mechanism to
form very massive stars”. Back in 2012, the New Scientist
also reported on the discovery of a quartet of ginormous stars –
each 300 times bigger than the sun — in the Tarantula
Nebula. 

Such discoveries defy the concept that all stars have an upper
limit of 150 solar masses. Instead, it is now an accepted fact that
if stars are squished together in a densely star-studded
environment, they will lose stability and inevitable end up
smashing into passing stars to form singular mega-stars.

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9 December 2014 | 6:08 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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