Astronomers see cosmic baby 'twin' stars

Feb. 1, 2013 at 6:58 PM
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AMHERST, Mass., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Newborn stars must "feed" on huge amounts of gas and dust, and U.S. astronomers report observing an unusual "baby" star that may in fact be twins.

The extremely young object, dubbed LRLL 54361, periodically emits infrared light bursts, a team of astronomers says, suggesting it may not be just one star but binary stars -- in other words, twins.

The periodic bursts suggest a companion to the central forming star is likely inhibiting its consumption of gas and dust until its closest orbital approach, when matter eventually comes crashing down onto the protostellar "twins."

"The idea that this object is a baby binary system fits our data, so, twins fit our data," team member Robert Gutermuth of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said.

"In single protostars, we would still see matter dumping onto the star non-uniformly, but never with the [periodic] regularity or intensity of the bursts we observe in LRLL 54361. The 25.43-day period is consistent with the orbital period we would expect from a very close binary star."

Close binary stars of low mass stars are a somewhat rare outcome of the star formation process, researchers said, but the periodic bursts from LRLL 54361 suggests exactly that.

"When you have two young stars feeding from the same circumstellar disk, the gravitational influence of the secondary companion can cause hiccups, an inhibition of infalling material from the disk," Gutermuth said.

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