Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory have discovered the largest and hottest double star system ever recorded.
The two components are actually touching one another and sharing material. They have named the system VFTS 352, which lies about 160,000 light years away from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud. These two stars orbit each other in less than a day, their centres separated by only 12 million km (7.5 million miles), which may seem far but is actually incredibly close for two stars of this size.
This dual star system has a combined mass of roughly 57 times our own Sun and also contains the hottest components, with surface temperatures in the range of 40,000 degrees Centigrade.
‘The VFTS 352 is the best case yet found for a hot and massive double star that may show this kind of internal mixing,’ explains lead author Leonardo Almeida of the University of São Paulo, Brazil. ‘As such it’s a fascinating and important discovery.’
‘If it keeps spinning rapidly it might end its life in one of the most energetic explosions in the universe, known as a long-duration gamma-ray burst,’ says the lead scientist of the project, Hugues Sana, of the University of Leuven in Belgium.
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