Binary Stars Form in the Same Nebula But Aren’t Identical. Now We Know Why.

This artist’s impression illustrates a binary pair of giant stars. Despite being born from the same molecular cloud, astronomers often detect differences in binary stars’ chemical compositions and planetary systems. Image Credit: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva (Spaceengine)/M. Zamani

It stands to reason that stars formed from the same cloud of material will have the same metallicity. That fact underpins some avenues of astronomical research, like the search for the Sun’s siblings. But for some binary stars, it’s not always true. Their composition can be different despite forming from the same reservoir of material, and the difference extends to their planetary systems.

New research shows that the differences can be traced back to their earliest stages of formation.

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Giant Stars and the Ultimate Fate of the Sun

Sizes of giant stars relative to our Sun. Going from the G-type to K-type to M-types, giant stars get progressively redder (cooler) and larger. Late M-type giants are more than 100 times the size of our Sun. Image Credit: Lowell Observatory.

Astronomers have a new tool to help them understand giant stars. It’s a detailed study of the precise temperatures and sizes of 191 giant stars. The authors of the work say that it’ll serve as a standard reference on giant stars for years to come.

It’ll also shed some light on what the Sun will go through late in its life.

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