Astroboffins spot hefty pair swinging together. What? Um, we're talking about record-breaking massive binary stars...

What did you think we meant?

Astronomers have discovered the closest and most massive binary star pair, according to the latest research.

The star known as PDS 27 and its companion are two gigantic balls of plasma classified as massive young stellar objects (MYSOs). They have an estimated combined mass of about 12 times that of the Sun, and are locked at a distance of just about 4.5 billion kilometres (2.8 billion miles) from each other, roughly the distance between the Sun and Neptune.

“With PDS 27 and its companion we have now found the closest, most massive young stellar objects in binaries resolved to date,” said Evgenia Koumpia, a research fellow at the University of Leeds in England, and first author of a paper revealing the results, published this week in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Spotting these types of stars is difficult since they aren’t around very long. Unlike our Sun, which gets to trundle along to a nice ripe old age, massive stars live life more dangerously. Their giant sizes mean they have to burn through copious amounts of their reserves much more quickly, and their lifetimes are only on the order of a few million years compared to the Sun’s ten billion.

“This is a very exciting discovery, observing and simulating massive binaries at the early stages of their formation is one of the main struggles of modern astronomy,” said Koumpia.

"There is a shortage of known young massive binary systems in charted space. High mass stars have comparatively short lifespans, burning out and exploding as supernovae in only a few million years, making them difficult to spot. This limits our ability to test the theories on how these stars form."

Well, luckily, the international team of researchers found another pair of these types of binaries. PDS 37 and its companion star are slightly smaller with a combined mass of 11 solar masses and separated by a further distance, about as far away as the Sun is from Pluto: 5.9 billion kilometres, or 3.7 billion miles.

Red giant and neutron star interaction (pic: ESA)

It's ALIIIIIVE: Boffins detect slow-moving zombie star


Both these binary systems were found by analysing data taken from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). An instrument known as PIONIER, collects the light from four telescopes to make out the companion stars in each system. The researchers hope that their discovery will help scientists understand how such massive stars form.

“The next big question – which we have tended to avoid so far because of observational difficulties – is why so many of these massive stars are in binary systems?," said Rene Oudmaijer, a professor at Leeds uni, and a coauthor of the study.

“It has become increasingly clear to astronomers that massive stars are almost never born alone, with at least one sibling for company. But the reasons why that is the case are still rather murky.

“Massive stars exert significant influence on their cosmic environment. Their stellar winds, energy and the supernova explosions they generate in turn can impact the formation of other stars and galaxies. The evolution and fate of high-mass stars is quite complex but previous studies have shown that they can be influenced to a large degree by their binary properties.” ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022