Somewhere in the depths of our universe, a stellar ballet is underway.
In front of the dark curtain of space, three huge twinkling stars trapped in a dance by their own gravitational forces glow in their common brilliance. Two of these burning balls of gas orbit tightly around each other, completing their combined orbit to the rhythm of Earth Day. Meanwhile, the third star of the duo steadily encircles the show, highlighting this dazzling performance.
Details of the cosmic situation can be found in a research paper published in June in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
“To our knowledge, this is the first ever of its kind,” Alejandro Vigna Gomez, an astrophysicist at the University of Copenhagen and co-author of the paper, said in a statement on Monday.
Although we know of many third-order star systems, according to Vigna-Gomez, they are not only farther from this bright trio, but also less massive. Quite a few.
According to the new paper, nearby inner binary stars have a combined mass nearly 12 times the mass of our sun, and the vast globe surrounding them boasts a massive 16 times the mass of our sun. For context, it would take more than 330,000 Earths to match a single solar mass, a quantity that makes up 99.8% of our planet’s mass. the entire solar system. Simply put, this stellar ballet is absolutely colossal.
But in the grand scheme of things, Vigna-Gomez was striving for more than just defining this unusual star-studded arrangement. The goal was to decode precisely how such a fierce trio – officially called TIC 470710327 – came together in the first place.
Together with fellow researcher Bin Liu, a theoretical astrophysicist also affiliated with the University of Copenhagen, Vigna-Gomez for the first time came up with several options for the background backdrop of the newly observed three-star system.
Above all, there was the idea that the largest outer star formed first. However, this option ultimately failed because, after some investigation, the team realized that such a star-studded leuthan would likely spew material inward that would disrupt binary star formation. There will be no triple. There was gaseous debris seeping in all directions.
Second, the team considered that the two-star dancers and the third star spectator might have been separated – far from each other – and eventually fell together due to the force of gravity. Although this particular scenario has not yet been completely ruled out, researchers believe it may not be the best. They focus more on the final and preferred possibility. One is a little less cooperative.
Researchers wondered what if two individual star systems formed near each other, perhaps one of these pairs would have merged into a giant star? If true, this massive combo star would be the outermost star we see today, orbiting the smaller – but massive – binary star.
In other words, it is possible that a fourth dancer was a part of this cosmic ballet, but unfortunately devoured by her partner before the last scene. Well, as of the team’s new research — based on plenty of computer models and surprisingly rooted in discoveries by citizen scientists — this case was the most likely case.
“But the model is not enough,” Vigna-Gomez said, arguing that to prove his and Leo’s suspicions with a high degree of certainty would require either the use of telescopes to study the higher system in better detail or statistical analysis of nearby star clusters.
“We also encourage people in the scientific community to look closely at the data,” Liu said in a statement. “What we really want to know is if this type of system is common in our universe.”