Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY
Published 7:31 a.m. ET Feb. 6, 2020 | Updated 12:33 p.m. ET Feb. 6, 2020
The two brawling nebulas help researchers understand the “death process” of stars like our sun.
Not all stars get along.
In fact, astronomers spotted the colorful remnants of what they concluded was a violent confrontation between two stars.
The gas cloud that resulted from the stellar fight was captured by a telescope in Chile, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), according to the European Southern Observatory.
The different colors in the ALMA image represent speed. The blue represents gas moving fastest towards us and the red gas moving the fastest away from us. The fighting pair can be seen as a bright green dot in the middle of the complex gas structure.
Using data from the ESO-operated Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment (APEX), astronomers determined that the larger star puffed into a red giant and grew so large that it tried to swallow the smaller star. In response, the smaller star spiraled in towards the giant’s core triggering an outburst that left its gas layers scattered and its core exposed.
Scientists are calling the star system HD101584.
“HD101584 is special in the sense that this ‘death process’ was terminated prematurely and dramatically,” said lead author Hans Olofsson from the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden in a press release Wednesday.
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Co-author Sofia Ramstedt from Uppsala University in Sweden said that astronomers knew the death processes of many Sun-like stars but were never able to explain why or how it happened.
“HD101584 gives us important clues to solve this puzzle,” she said.
However, more questions remain. While the telescopes were able to capture the movement of gas around the star system, the fighting stars are too close together and too far away to study thoroughly.
Olofsson says that a new, larger telescope currently under construction in Chile’s Atacama Desert will allow astronomers a closer look at the two stars and hopefully “provide information on the ‘heart’ of the object.”
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
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