An international team of researchers was able to take a first look at the early formation of a set of stars within a triple star system. The discovery brings new insights about the origins of multiple-star systems by adding another possible mechanism of formation on the list.
Astronomers used three of the world’s largest radio telescopes to observe the unique cosmic event, which takes place about 800 light-years away. They analyzed a cloud of dust that contains a protostar at its core and three dense clusters around that star that astronomers believe will collapse and thus become stars in the next 40,000 years.
Researchers estimate that the protostar will eventually disappear, but the newly formed stars may form a stable triple-star system. Scientists are over thrilled with the new discovery because they had long sought to catch such system in its early years of formation.
The discovery was made with help from the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico, the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) telescope in West Virginia, which is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope, and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii.
The team focused the three telescopes on Barnard 5 (B5), a dense core of gas located in the constellation Perseus. The core of gas is located in a region where young stars emerge, so astronomers knew that at least one forming proto-star was present within the cloud of gas. But to their surprise they found that there may be three more.
VLA telescope mapped the core of gas and revealed that the filaments of gas in Barnard 5 were fragmenting, while the resulting fragments were gathering into three dense clusters that will eventually transform into a new multiple-star system.
We know that these stars eventually will form a multi-star system because our observations show that these gas condensations are gravitationally bound. This is the first time we’ve been able to show that such a young system is gravitationally bound,”
They also said that the discovery brings new evidence that gas filament fragmentation within a dense core of gas can lead to the formation of a new multiple-star system. Until now, the only mechanisms listed as possible triggering events were the fragmentation of the main gas core, the fragmentation within the disk of material orbiting a protostar, and gravitational capture, researchers added.
The astronomers published their findings in the 12 February issue of the journal Nature.
Image Source: Astronomy