Two researchers, one from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and other from the University of California, Berkeley, teamed up to explore the secrets of binary stars. Within the Milky Way, binary stars are relatively common. According to their research, these binary stars are made that way. Using telescopes in Hawaii and New Mexico, Sarah Sadavoy and Steven Stahler, studied the Perseus constellation. This particular constellation is home to a large molecular cloud which is theorized to have the elements to build stars. With this theory, the two researchers speculate that the sun may have had a twin, they dubbed Nemesis. Their study was recently published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomy Society.
A binary star is a system of two stars that circle or orbit around a common center of mass or barycenter. Depending on the distance, to an unaided, binary stars appear as one single star instead of two. Researchers now believe that more than half of the stars currently overhead are all part of a binary or multiple star system. From a binary star system, astrophysicists can determine the mass of the stars, the radius and density, and the empirical mass-luminosity relationship.
Sadavoy and Stahler believe that our own sun was once a twin that later died. In the case of the sun’s twin, dubbed “Nemesis,” Sadavoy and Stahler believe that Nemesis broke from the sun and is somewhere else in the Milky Way. According to the Smithsonian, researchers do not know if Nemesis will ever be found. Sadavoy said that the discovery would “change our understanding of dense cores and embedded stars within them.”
Sadavoy and Stahler, according to the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomy Society, studied the “relationship between young, embedded binaries, and their parent cores” in the Perseus Molecular Cloud, nearly 600 light-years away from Earth. According to Space.com, Nemesis may have shoved comets out of the orbits and into the Earth. With this theory, it may explain several of the Earth’s mass extinctions. Using the Very Large Array in New Mexico and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, Sadavoy and Stahler discovered 55 stars in 24 multi-star systems. They also detected 45 “single-star systems.”
Using this data, the two researchers then ran statistical models. From these models, Sadavoy and Stahler concluded that most binary stars “end up going their separate ways.” In the press release from the University of California, Berkeley, Nemesis was not an identical twin. The two researchers said that their statistical model needed to be “checked in other clouds” to see if their theory is sound.
By Cheryl Werber
Photo Courtesy Lucasfilm/Disney