Scientists have discovered a special, massive system of triple stars unlike any they’ve seen before.
Why is this important: By learning more about these types of star systems, astronomers are able to get a better idea of how stars and planets form in the universe.
What they found: The system consists of two stars orbiting one another in a binary and the third orbiting the binary, according to a study published at the end of June in the Royal Astronomical Society Monthly Notices.
- The two stars in the combined binary are 12 times larger than the Sun, and the third star has 16 times the mass of the Sun.
- “As far as we know, this is the first of its kind ever detected,” Alejandro Vigna-Gómez, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement.
- “We know of many tertiary star systems (three-star systems), but they are generally much less massive. The massive stars in this triplet are very close together – it’s a compact system.”
The big picture: The scientists behind the discovery believe that this system likely formed as two sets of binaries orbiting each other.
- One of the stars in the outer binary then merged with its companion, leaving a massive star orbiting the other binary.
Go further: What happens when a black hole eats a star