Thursday, July 26, 2012

Astronomers spot binary system where one star sucks the life out of another

The Universe is a diverse place, and many stars are quite unlike the Sun.

Now an international team has used the Very Large Telescope in Chile to study what are known as O-type stars, which have very high temperature, mass and brightness.

These stars have short and violent lives and play a key role in the evolution of galaxies. They are also linked to extreme phenomena such as 'vampire stars', where a smaller companion star sucks matter off the surface of its larger neighbour.

'These stars are absolute behemoths,' said Hugues Sana, from the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, who is the lead author of the study.

'They have 15 or more times the mass of our Sun and can be up to a million times brighter. These stars are so hot that they shine with a brilliant blue-white light and have surface temperatures over 30,000C.'

The astronomers studied a sample of 71 O-type single stars and stars in pairs (binaries) in six nearby young star clusters in the Milky Way. Most of the observations in their study were obtained using ESO telescopes, including the VLT. Read More