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Brightest and hottest stars have close, turbulent relationships, study suggets

The brightest and hottest stars in our galaxy tend to have short, violent lives, often drawing gas from each other and frequently merging to form a single star, a new study indicates.

Artist's impression of a vampire star and its victim.

L. Calçada/S.E. de Mink/ESO

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A surprising number of massive stars in our Milky Way galaxy are part of close stellar duos, a new study finds, but most of these companion stars have turbulent relationships — with one "vampire star" sucking gas from the other, or the two stars violently merging to form a single star.

Astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile studied massive O-type stars, which are very hot and incredibly bright. These stars, which have surface temperatures of more than 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit (30,000 degrees Celsius) live short, violent lives, but they play key roles in the evolution of galaxies.

The researchers discovered that more than 70 percent of these massive stars have close companions, making up so-called binary systems in which two stars orbit each other.

While this percentage is far more than was previously expected, the astronomers were more surprised to find that majority of these stellar pairs have tumultuous relationships with one another, said study co-author Selma de Mink, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.


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