The merger of a massive monster star pair could give scientists their first chance to see how the first stars were formed in the earliest years of the universe. At the very least, the two monster stars, each more than 30 times the size of Earth’s sun, could produce a fireworks display in the heavens on a scale greater than anything humans have been able to observe, when the two gigantic stars collide.
The pair of stars is known by astronomers as MY Cam — short for MY Camelopardalis — and was first spotted in the skies about 13,000 light years from Earth a decade ago.
But until now, astronomers thought they were looking at a single, massive, and extremely bright star. But according to discoveries by Spanish astronomers, published this week in the scientific journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, MY Cam is actually two stars orbiting each other in such close proximity that a collision appears inevitable.
And when the two stars finally ram into each other, the scientists believe that they will merge into one new truly monstrous monster star.
The two stars are believed to be only about 2 million-years-old — babies in terms of the age of the universe. Because many of the stars in the galaxy are thought to have formed by the collision of two other stars millions and even billions of years ago, keeping a close watch on this monster star pair gives science one its best chances to learn how the universe was formed in its earliest stages.
This image, courtesy of National Geographic, shows what the Alicante star system, home of MY Cam, looks like in the sky when observed through ordinary binoculars, rather than the 2.2-meter telescope used by astronomers at Spain’s Calar Alto Observatory.
According to a team led by Javier Lorenzo of the University of Alicante, the two extremely hot blue stars take slightly more than a single day to orbit each other — at a speed of 621,000 miles per hour.
At that rate, Lorenzo’s team says, the stars will draw closer and closer to each other, soon colliding to form a single gargantuan star about 60 times the size of the sun.
The outer atmospheres of the two monster stars are already in contact, the astronomers report.
Of course, because nothing like this potential monster star merger has even been witnessed by human beings before, no one is really certain what’s going to happen when the monster star merger actually happens.