Astronomers are witnessing a very rare event, where two colossal stars are so close to one another that they formed a hot bridge between them, or in other words, they are cosmically kissing.
Located in the Tarantula Nebula, about 160,000 light years away from Earth, the two kissing giants are up to 80 times more massive than the Sun, and can be to a million times brighter. In fact, they are so hot that they shine with a radiant blue-white light and have surface temperatures over 40,000 degrees Celsius.
The newly discovered system spotted by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), is composed of the two extremely hot, bright and massive stars, and named VFTS 352.
It is among the most extreme and strangest systems yet found, because the two stars are so close to one another that about 30 percent of their mass is shared within an interstellar field that has formed between them, creating a bridge that makes them inseparable, like a pair of cosmic lovers.
Such double stars phenomenon is linked to the “vampire stars”, where a smaller companion star drains matter from the other larger star found in its vicinity. However, in the case of VFTS 352, both stars have almost identical size, making them a rare sight indeed.
The life span of the two celestial bodies is also very short in this phase, making it difficult to catch them in the act. Apart from this, the event plays a key role in the evolution of galaxies and are thought to be the prime producers of vital elements such as oxygen.
Astronomers predict two possible endings that might occur: either the two stars will remain somehow separated in a double star system, or they will mix completely, forming a mega unstable behemoth that’s going to rapidly spin until it will detonate. According to Hugues Sana, of the University of Leuven in Belgium:
If it keeps spinning rapidly, it might end its life in one of the most energetic explosions in the Universe, known as a long-duration gamma-ray burst.”
The second possibility is explained by the astrophysicist Selma de Mink, of University of Amsterdam:
If the stars are mixed well enough, they both remain compact and the VFTS system may avoid merging. This would lead the objects down a new evolutionary path that is completely different from classic stellar evolution predictions. In the case of VFTS 352, the components would likely end their lives in supernova explosions, forming a close binary system of black holes.
Even though the second possibility exists, it is but a slightly chance for it to occur in that particular way, leaving more room for the first hypothesis, where the two will merge into a giant and eventualy explode in the most spectacular way.
Regardless of the result, the discovery, made by the ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, has allready offered astronomers a strange and probably once in a lifetime glance into the heart of these fierce overcontact binaries.
Probably sharing a catastrophic fate, the two lovers will provide an unimaginable spectacle when they’ll blow up with tremendous force.