Bright Quartet

No matter how much we know about the universe, we can always learn more. An example is a star that blazes at the middle of a stellar nursery in the constellation Puppis. When it was first seen, through a telescope, it looked like a single star. Later, it turned out to be two stars. And now, it looks like the system may consist of at least four stars, all of which are far bigger and brighter than the Sun.

The system is known by a catalog name — HD 64315. It’s about 16,000 light-years away. Large telescopes show two stars, which are separated by tens of billions of miles. And a spectroscope, which breaks a star’s light into its individual wavelengths, shows that each of those stars actually consists of two stars. It’s one of the most fascinating systems in the entire galaxy.

A recent study says that in the brighter binary, both stars are probably more than 30 times as massive as the Sun. And they’re so close together that they’re almost touching.

The stars of the other binary are touching each other —they share their outer layers of gas. The stars are almost exactly the same size and mass — about 15 times as heavy as the Sun. But within the next 25,000 years or so, they may merge. That’ll form a single star that’s as big as those in the other binary.

After that, HD 64315 will consist of three supergiant stars, each of which will someday explode as a supernova — one more change for this busy star system.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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