(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have collected enough data to suggest that somewhere in the outskirts of our star system, the “rejected” twin of the Sun is hiding.
The new star formation model adds weight to the hypothesis that most, if not all, stars are born in a litter with at least one sibling.
Our own star at the center of the solar system is probably no exception, and some astronomers suspect that the Sun’s estranged twin may be to blame for the demise of the dinosaurs.
Solar twins: How stars are born
After analyzing data from a radio survey conducted over a dust cloud in the constellation Perseus, two researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory concluded in 2017 that all stars similar to the Sun are probably born with a companion.
“We ran a series of statistical models to see if we could account for the relative population of young single stars and binary stars in the Perseus molecular cloud, and the only model that could reproduce the data was one in which all stars form initially as binary systems,” – said UC Berkeley astronomer Steven Stahler in June 2017.
For years, astronomers have wondered if a large number of binary and triple star systems in our galaxy are being created close to each other, or if they merge together after they form.
The “born together” hypothesis has been the favorite, and simulations developed in recent decades have shown that almost all stars can be born as a plurality, parts of which often rotate on their own.
Unfortunately, the empirical evidence to support these simulations has been limited, making the new work quite interesting.
As part of the survey, the researchers mapped radio waves emerging from a dense dusty cocoon about 600 light-years away that contained a nursery of young stars.
This allowed for a census of stars younger than half a million years old, called class 0 stars – just babies in stellar conditions – and slightly older stars, between 500,000 and 1 million years old, called class 1.
Combined with data on the shape of the surrounding dust cloud, the scientists found 45 single stars, 19 binary star systems, and 5 more containing more than two stars.
Although the results of the model predicted that all stars were born as binaries, the scientists adjusted their conclusion to account for the limitations of the approach itself.
They stated that most of the stars formed inside the dense cores of dust clouds are born together with a partner.
“I think we have the strongest evidence for such a claim today,” Stahler said at the time.
Looking closely at the distances between the stars, the researchers found that all binary systems, separated by a gap of 500 AU or more, are class 0, and are aligned with the axis of their surrounding egg-shaped cloud.
On the other hand, class 1 stars tended to be closer together at about 200 AU. and were not aligned with the axis of their “egg”.
“We don’t quite understand what this means yet, but this pattern is not random and should tell us something about how wide binary systems form,” said Sarah Sadavoy of the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.
But if most stars are born with a partner, where is ours?
Distance of 500 AU is approximately 0.008 light years, or slightly less than 3 light days. By comparison, Neptune is 30 AU away, Voyager 1 is currently less than 140 AU away, and the nearest known star, Proxima Centauri, is 268,770 AU away.
So if the Sun has a twin, it’s almost certainly not that easy to see, even with telescopes.
However, it is the twin brother of the Sun, who loves to fly past every now and then, that can be the true cause of many bright events in the history of our planet.
Called “Nemesis,” this theoretical source of trouble has been proposed as the cause of an apparent 27-million-year extinction cycle on Earth, including the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.
A UC Berkeley astronomer named Richard Muller 23 years ago suggested that a red dwarf 1.5 light-years away could periodically travel through the icy outer reaches of our solar system, churning the surrounding matter with its gravity and causing anomalies.
A dim star such as a brown dwarf could also explain other oddities in the outskirts of our solar system, such as the overly wide orbit of the dwarf planet Sedna.
To date, no actual signs of Nemesis have been found, but if her or a similar object is found sooner or later in the outskirts of the solar system, it will help unravel a lot of cosmic mysteries and inconsistencies.
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