Twin Stars in the Orion Nebula
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Twin Stars in the Orion Nebula

June 20, 2008

Twin stars observed in the Orion Nebula, a stellar nursery 1,500 light years from Earth. At this distance the twin stars appear as a single point of light.

Because mass and age estimates for stars less than a few million years old are based on models that were calibrated with measurements of binary stars presumed to have formed simultaneously, this new discovery may cause astronomers to readjust their estimates for thousands of young stars.

The newly formed twin stars are about 1 million years old. With a full lifespan of about 50 billion years, that makes them equivalent to one-day-old human babies.

The observations were made with the NSF-supported SMARTS telescopes at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, and with access provided by NSF to the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at the MacDonald Observatory in Texas.

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