Scientists discover the hottest touching double star system ever

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Oct 24, 2015, 7:52 PM EDT (Updated)

We know stars are the raging infernos of the universe, but here's a mated pair that appears to be carrying on some romantic activity way out in the Tarantula Nebula.   Using the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in northern Chile for their observations, a group of international scientists have located what they claim is the largest, hottest touching double star system ever recorded, with their fiery centers separated by a mere 7.5 million miles. The brilliant pair is catalogued as VFTS 352 and is located 160,000 light-years from Earth in the Tarantula Nebula, which is found inside the Large Magellanic Cloud visible from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere.  Unfortunately, like most stormy romances, the two intertwined stars could be heading for an epic catastrophe, either merging violently to create a single giant star or forming a devastating double black hole.

Here's how the ESO explained these cosmic marvels:

In fact, the stars are so close that their surfaces overlap and a bridge has formed between them. VFTS 352 is not only the most massive known in this tiny class of ‘overcontact binaries’ — it has a combined mass of about 57 times that of the sun — but it also contains the hottest components — with surface temperatures above 40,000 degrees Celsius [ed note: 70,000 degrees Fahrenheit; in contrast to about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit for our sun’s surface].

Extreme stars like the two components of VFTS 352, play a key role in the evolution of galaxies and are thought to be the main producers of elements such as oxygen. Such double stars are also linked to exotic behavior such as that shown by vampire stars, where a smaller companion star sucks matter from the surface of its larger neighbor.

In the case of VFTS 352, however, both stars in the system are of almost identical size. Material is, therefore, not sucked from one to another, but instead may be shared. The component stars of VFTS 352 are estimated to be sharing about 30 per cent of their material.

Check out this artist's rendition of what this amazing union of kissing stars might look like and tell us if it makes you swoon.


(Via Earth Sky)