Kissing each other, two stars are heading for catastrophe

Artist's impression of VFTS 352, the hottest and most massive double star system to date where the two components are in contact and sharing material.Credits: ESO/L. Calçada
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Last year a Spanish study of the contact binary pair MY Camelopardalis (MY Cam) found support for the theory that the most massive stars are formed by the merging of smaller stars. MY Cam is a very hot, massive binary within our Galaxy.

VFTS352 is very similar to MY Cam. The difference is that in VFTS352 the two stars are already interchanging mass, whereas the two companions of MY Cam are only just brushing past each other.

Thanks to the recent discoveries about VFTS352 and MY Cam we can explore aspects of the lives and deaths of very massive stars for which we did not have direct evidence until now.

It is very possible that these types of binaries are not able to maintain this phase of peaceful coexistence, and that the stars composign them will merge into a single star. In fact this is one of the scenarios postulated for the formation of extremely massive stars.

But it might be that the system does survive, and gives rise to two black holes orbiting around each other. The search for more systems like VFTS 352 and MY Cam will continue, with the objective of determining the probabilities of the two scenarios.

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