Astronomers discovered a protostar that formed in the accretion disk of another protostar!!! Now let me explain all those indigestible terms – a protostar is simply a the stage just before a newborn star fully develops into a star, just before nucleosynthesis starts. Pretty much it’s in the growing up stages and will soon be a full grown adult star. Protostars are newborn and they’re filled with lots of energy (like a 2 year old child) and they spin very fast, increasing in speed. With all this spinning happening, a bunch of nearby dust and gas starts to accumulate and accreted into a disk shape around the newborn star, this is called the accretion disk. And this entire system of the newborn star with the accretion disk around it has a name too- it’s called a PROTO-PLANETARY DISK (aka PROPLYD)! Just like the 20 beautiful proplyds that were recently imaged, I covered that discovery here.
These disks that form around newborn stars hold all the essential materials to form planets overtime and potentially a planetary system just like our very own solar system. If the planets are aligned within the habitable zone of the host star.. then dare I say it, the potentiality for life is very likely. This is why I get so excited about this topic in astrophysics. However, something very interested was discovered, in the accretion disk around protostar named MM 1a. Rather than planets forming in the accretion disk, a whole new PROTOSTAR formed!!
Ok so how the heck did that happen?! Well, MM 1a is a VERY MASSIVE protostar, it is about 40 times the mass of our Sun, and with a massive protostar like that, you bet it’s drawing in A LOT of nearby icy, dusty gaseous materials into its accretion disk. So it’s disk is HUGE and DENSE with a much larger concentration of elements than smaller disks around smaller protostars. Due to this knowing, there is a higher chance that some of the materials in the unstable disk coalesced and collapsed under gravity and BOOM a protostar is born!
But WAIT- it gets better. This secondary protostar, named M 1b, is about half the mass of our Sun. And remember, MM 1a is 40x the mass of our Sun. That makes the mass ratio between both protostars 80:1!!! This is such a dramatic differentiation in size. So what does this mean for the future of this binary star system? Well, the small protostar, MM 1b has a good chance of living long enough for planets to form in its very own circumstellar disk (the later stages of an accretion disk, when rocky materials start to actually collide to form asteroids, planetesimals, planets etc.). MM 1b can live several million years, planets typically will begin to form around 3-5 million years. However, even tho MM 1b can live long enough to form its own planets, it will be quickly demolished by its partner, the big the mighty the massive MM 1a that will die via supernova explosion in only 1 million years!!! This means, any hopes for life to exist will be totally out of the question because the entire system will be demolished before in any of those planets even begin to form.
I honestly think gathering as much data about this system can bring us answers to how much more different binary systems can form than we previously thought. And who knows, maybe life too, before any star goes supernova.