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Future Quadruplets

April 16, 2015

An interstellar cloud in the constellation Perseus is giving birth to quadruplets. And at least three of the four are likely to stick close together after they’re born.

The cloud is known as Barnard 5. It contains enough cold gas and dust to make about a thousand stars as massive as the Sun. Some of that material is collapsing into dense knots. A few of those knots have given birth to new stars over the last few million years, while others are incubating stars even now.

A team of astronomers studied one of those incubators with an array of radio telescopes in New Mexico. They found that it contains one proto-star — a dense clump that’s about ready to ignite the fires of nuclear fusion and shine as a true star. It also contains three other clumps that aren’t quite that far along. They’re probably going to give birth to stars sometime in the next 40,000 years or so.

Each of the new stars will be a good bit smaller and less massive than the Sun. And they’ll be separated by billions of miles. The researchers say the gravitational interactions of the stars is likely to eject one of the quadruplets from the family. But the other three may remain bound to one another — circling through the Milky Way as a tight-knit family.

And Perseus is low in the west as night falls right now — a couple of intersecting chains of stars spread out to the right of Venus, the “evening star.”


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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