Featured Image: Stars from Broken Clouds and Disks

This still from a simulation captures binary star formation in action. Researchers have long speculated on the processes that lead to clouds of gas and dust breaking up into smaller pieces to form multiple-star systems — but these take place over a large range of scales, making them difficult to simulate. In a new study led by Leonardo Sigalotti (UAM Azcapotzalco, Mexico), researchers have used a smoothed-particle hydrodynamics code to model binary star formation on scales of thousands of AU down to scales as small as ~0.1 AU. In the scene shown above, a collapsing cloud of gas and dust has recently fragmented into two pieces, forming a pair of disks separated by around 200 AU. In addition, we can see that smaller-scale fragmentation is just starting in one of these disks, Disk B. Here, one of the disk’s spiral arms has become unstable and is beginning to condense; it will eventually form another star, producing a hierarchical system: a close binary within the larger-scale binary. Check out the broader process in the four panels below (which show the system as it evolves over time), or visit the paper linked below for more information about what the authors learned.

binary star formation multipanel

Evolution of a collapsed cloud after large-scale fragmentation into a binary protostar: (a) 44.14 kyr, (b) 44.39 kyr, (c) 44.43 kyr, and (d) 44.68 kyr. The insets show magnifications of the binary cores. [Adapted from Sigalotti et al. 2018]


Leonardo Di G. Sigalotti et al 2018 ApJ 857 40. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aab619