Researchers discover critical clue about binary star life cycles

(ORDO NEWS) — Thanks to research by the Australian National University (ANU) and the Yunnan Observatory in China, new information has been obtained about the mysterious stage in the life of binary stars.

Half of all stars form pairs known as binary. We understand the functioning of single stars, but stellar pairs are more complex.

According to co-author of the study, Associate Professor Christian Wolf at ANU, the “common envelope phase” is especially important for binary stars, but so far it has never been observed.

For the first time, a research team has discovered a close binary star with an expanding shell of material around it – the remnants of a common shell.

“In the early stages, the two stars often orbit each other and nothing much happens. But when one of the stars grows into a red giant, it doesn’t just take in more empty space like a single star does.

Instead, she “hugs” or absorbs her companion and they appear as one star under an opaque shell. That’s when things get really interesting.

The friction that occurs as they move inside the shell radically changes what happens to the stars beyond. It not only causes heat, but also slows down the stars so that they enter ever closer orbits; in the end, the shell overheats and shatters,” explained Associate Professor Wolf.

The explosion of this binary star occurred about 10,000 years ago.

“The overall shell phase is the missing link in the very long and complex chain of events that make up the life of stars. Now we begin to install this link. It could even help us better reconstruct gravitational wave events such as black hole mergers,” says Wolf.

The researchers believe that this first glimpse of such a phenomenon could lead to the discovery of more stars at a critical stage in their lives.

“Perhaps now it will be easier for us to recognize them, and we will have a clearer idea of ​​\u200b\u200bwhat to look for. There are probably others who have been under our noses all this time,” concluded Associate Professor Wolf.

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