Well, I’m here to completely destroy that image you’ve got inside your head, because it turns out stars aren’t that peaceful after all. Nope, turns out they’re pretty savage and actually get into violent fights with each other.
Don’t believe me? A telescope in Chile recently captured the moment one star swallowed another, ending its life prematurely in an epic battle and disproving everything we thought we knew about the Solar System.
Astronomers were able to capture the footage using the Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array (ALMA) alongside data from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX), after they spotted a gas cloud that resulted from the collision.
The battle occurred within the star system HD101584, and, according to a statement by Hans Olofsson of the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, it is special ‘in the sense that this “death process” was terminated prematurely and dramatically as a nearby low-mass companion star was engulfed by the giant’.
Olofsson, the lead author of the study published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, and a team of scientists discovered that when the larger star – which had puffed up into a red giant – attempted to overtake its smaller companion, the latter fought back and spiralled towards the giant’s core.
Although they didn’t collide, the larger starburst, scattering its gas layers and leaving its core exposed. The blue and red blobs of stellar gas seen in the new image, released this week by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), were formed when jets of gas blasted through the ejected material.
In simple terms, what happened to the stars goes as follows: during the fight/argument/whatever you want to call it, one of the stars grew so large it was able to engulf the other, which then spiraled and caused the original star to shed its outer layers.
And although it might not seem all that important, the battle will actually help astronomers understand what the sun will go through as it evolves towards death.