A Dance of Two Stars

160,000 light-years away in the Tarantula Nebula lies a double star system called VFTS 352. It is here that the international team of astronomers have found a double star system where the components are close enough to touch each other. VFTS 352’s two stars are both very hot, very bright, and very massive. They orbit each other in a little more than a day and are separated by only 12 million kilometers. This proximity has caused a bridge to form between them. Astronomers are predicting a collision that could end in two ways: the formation of a single giant star or a binary black hole.

When Stars Collide

Soon, this “dance” will lead to one of two outcomes. The first possible outcome is that the two stars merge into a quickly rotating giant star that, if it keeps spinning rapidly, might end in a long-duration gamma-ray burst, which is one of the most energetic explosions in the Universe.

Alternatively, lead scientist Hugues Sana explains that in the second possible outcome  “the components would likely end their lives in supernova explosions, forming a close binary system of black holes. Such a remarkable object would be an intense source of gravitational waves.”

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