A group of astronomers has managed to describe the dance of a young twin star system called XZ Tauri, creating an animation from three years of observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA). This first description and animation of twin stars sheds new light on the origins of binary systems and the planets that will form around them.
XZ Tauri has two stars orbiting each other about 6 billion kilometers apart, almost the same extent that separates Pluto from the Sun. It is located in the Taurus constellation, one of the constellations with the oldest records, since many peoples focused their attention on it.
The researchers used ALMA to try to describe this binary system, while employing techniques of radio astronomical animations instead of conventional images. They took data from the young twin star system that was recorded over three years: 2015, 2016, and 2017.
According to a Press release, the main objective of scientists is to determine how planets form around this class of binary systems. Although the Solar System that shelters us has a single star, astronomers maintain that there are a large number of twin stars in the universe, which orbit each other constituting the same system.
Formation of planets around twin stars
In the youth of this class of formations, each star is surrounded by a disco protoplanetario, composed of molecular gas and dust. These kinds of disks are known to be the site of planet formation. Thus, previous studies have detected different exoplanets associated with binary stars: however, it remains a mystery for specialists how discs are formed in binary star systems and, at the same time, how planets are born from them. .
In this way, astronomers believe that to fully understand the planet formation In these twin star systems it is key to accurately determine the orbital motion of each of the stars, as well as the inclination of the protoplanetary disks that accompany them.
According to the theories developed on the subject, if the orbital planes of the stars and their planetary disks do not coincide, it would be indicating that the binary systems have been formed from the fragmentation of huge molecular clouds, due to violent turbulence in deep space. Precisely, this seems to be the case of XZ Tauri: the stars that make it up orbit in a different plane than the protoplanetary discs, and each disc is also inclined with respect to the other.
Although previous observations with ALMA had discovered examples of twin stars twin starswith protoplanetary disks inclined towards each other, the study recently published in the Astrophysical Journal marks the first time that it has been possible to clarify the orbital motion of a binary system.
In addition to confirming that the XZ Tauri system was formed from the fragmentation of gigantic molecular clouds, the research opens a new path for delve into this class of formations, a path of study that could be enhanced with the arrival of new instruments and advanced technologies in the coming years.
Misaligned Circumstellar Disks and Orbital Motion of the Young Binary XZ Tau. Takanori Ichikawa et al. Astrophysical Journal (2021).DOI:https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/ac0dc3
Cover photo: artistic recreation of the young binary system XZ Tau. The two stars in the system each have a protoplanetary disk around them, which is tilted relative to the other. Both stars orbit in a different plane than each disk. Credit: ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO).
Video and podcast: edited by Pablo Javier Piacente based on elements and sources free of copyright. Video image credits: ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO) / WikiImages, Gerd Altmann and monicore on Pixabay.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.