The dramatic end of a starry couple

The death fight between two stars has been captured in pictures by astronomers with the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA). The gas cloud, which appears to consist of multiple rings, is the remains of the binary star system HD101584. “A nearby low-mass companion star was engulfed by the giant,” explains Hans Olofsson of the Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, who is the lead author of a study on this object, now published in the journal, Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The ALMA image shows vividly what happened during this confrontation, described in a press release from the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which is a partner of ALMA: “As the main star puffed up into a red giant, it grew large enough to swallow its lower-mass partner. In response, the smaller star spiraled in toward the giant’s core, but didn’t collide with it. Rather, this maneuver triggered the larger star into an outburst, leaving its gas layers dramatically scattered and its core exposed.

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