Newly formed massive contact binary within a hierarchical ternary system

(ORDO NEWS) — A team of researchers led by Professor Qian Shengbang of the Yunnan Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has discovered a newly formed massive binary within a hierarchical triple system. The third body in the system is also a massive star, which makes this configuration unique.

Massive contact binaries contain two early-type stars that have filled their respective critical Roche lobes and are united by a common radiative envelope. The formation and evolution of such systems are still a mystery to scientists.

The researchers studied the light curves of V606 Centauri, an early type B close binary, using high-precision continuous tracking data collected by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

Photometric data were obtained using the Helen Sawyer Hogg telescope located in Argentina. In addition, the researchers used several large sky surveys.

Based on the available data, the researchers calculated that “V606 Centauri is a contact binary with only about 2 percent unification of the stellar shells,” said co-author Li Fu Xing.

The performed calculations showed that mass transfer from a more massive component to a less massive one occurs in the presence of a third, massive body.

Both the shallow touch of the stellar shells and the constant shortening of the orbital period indicate that the V606 Centauri system is a newly formed contact binary.

“The V606 Centauri system is at a unique evolutionary stage that distinguishes it from other massive binaries previously reported, and is a newly formed massive contact binary created by mass transfer from the primary to the secondary,” said Professor Qian.

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