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Beyond Earthly Skies

Birth of a Quadruple Star System

25 Mar 2015, 22:00 UTC
Birth of a Quadruple Star System Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF
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Roughly half of all stars reside in multiple star systems - binaries, triples, quadruplets, quintuples, etc. There appears to be a higher prevalence of multiplicity for stars that are still forming as compared to fully-formed stars. This is because dynamical interactions tend to scatter apart multiple star systems. Observations of Bernard 5, a cloud of gas ~800 light-years away, show the presence of a quadruple star system in its beginning stages of formation.Figure 1: Barnard 5, embedded in dust (blue) as seen with ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory, in infrared light. Credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF.The quadruple system in Bernard 5 consists of one young protostar and three dense condensations of gas. All four objects are currently gravitationally bound. The protostar, B5-IRS1, is a low-mass star estimated to be roughly 0.1 times the Sun’s mass. As for the three gas condensations, they are expected to gravitationally collapse to form stars one-tenth to one-third the mass of the Sun in ~40,000 years.At present, the project separations between the protostar and the three condensations, B5-Cond1, B5-Cond2 and B5-Cond3, are 11,400 AU, 3,300 AU and 5,100 AU, respectively. The quadruple system is unstable and will likely disperse on a timescale of roughly 500,000 years. Nevertheless, ...

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