Unusual triple star system may have swallowed a fourth star

(ORDO NEWS) — Astronomers have discovered a triple star system that is unlike any system of its kind seen before.

The unusual trio of stars is much more massive and compact than a typical triple star system, which may be the result of its absorption of a fourth star.

This triple star system is known as TIC 470710327 and was discovered by researchers while analyzing data collected by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

This trio has a hierarchical structure, that is, two double stars rotate relative to each other in the center of the system, and a third star moves around this central pair in a wider orbit.

Triple star systems are quite widespread in the Universe – for example, up to 10 percent of the total number of star systems in the Universe can be triple.

However, the TIC 470710327 system stands out from other triple star systems known to science in terms of size and shape.

Its stars are much more massive than typical triple stars, which means the trio is more compact due to enhanced gravitational interactions.

“To our knowledge, this is the first system of its kind,” said study lead author Alejandro Vigna-Gomez, an astrophysicist at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

The binary star system lying at the center of the TIC 470710327 system has a total mass of about 12 solar masses and an orbital period of two stars relative to each other of about one day.

The larger, outer star has an even larger mass, about 16 times our own, and orbits the binary system with a period of 52 days, which is “pretty fast given the size of these stars,” Viña-Gómez said.

According to the Vigny-Gomez group, the most likely explanation for the origin of the TIC 470710327 system is that the system was originally quaternary and consisted of two spatially separated binary systems.

Then, a merger took place in the outer pair of the star system, and one more massive star was formed.


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