How Do Two Stars Become One?

Astronomers at the McDonald Observatory in Texas have found two very old stars that are so close together that the gravity of one is actually pulling the other apart.

It is the smaller of the two stars that is being pulled apart. Some of its material is being added to the larger star, and some of it is being tossed out into the universe.

The two ancient stars are so close together that they would both fit inside the planet Jupiter. They make a complete orbit around each other in only forty-six and a half minutes. Astronomers are very happy with this find because it allows them to see inside a star for the very first time.

What will happen to the two stars? The larger one will get brighter and brighter as it “eats” more and more of the smaller star. After a million years or so, when the smaller star is gone, the larger star will go back to being just an ordinary star. Eventually, it, too, will die.

The particles of matter thrown into space by the smaller star will one day be the seed of a new solar system.