We all have known or at least heard that the dinosaurs were wiped due to a catastrophic comet. Several theories have been given in this regard, but what if we tell you this event occurred due to an evil twin of our very own Sun?
At least that’s what two highly-respected stargazers from the University of Berkeley and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard University suspect. After analyzing data from a radio survey conducted on the Perseus molecular cloud, packed with newly formed stars, the astronomers have confirmed that most stars, including our Sun, had at least one sibling.
Study To Take Account Of Stars And Their Siblings
Scientists Sarah Sadavoy and Steven Stahler conducted the survey to determine what percentage of young stars like our sun form in pairs. They ran a series of statistical models that took into account the numbers of both single stars and binary stars within the cloud. Surprisingly, the only model that could reproduce the data was one in which all stars form initially as wide binaries, with 500 AU between them (distance 17 times that of Neptune to the sun). Meaning, over first million years of their lives, the stars either shrink into a truly binary system or split up, like the Sun and its sibling.
However, the authors caution that the findings need to be checked in other star-forming clouds, and more work needs to be done to understand this phenomenon. “Our work is a step forward in understanding both how binaries form and also the role that binaries play in early stellar evolution,” said Stahler, adding, even our Sun probably had a sibling long time ago.
While scientists haven’t been able to prove the existence of this twin, a hypothesis suggests it wreaks havoc every now and then. The Sun’s sibling, aptly dubbed Nemesis, has been proposed as the reason behind an apparent 27-million-year cycle of extinctions on Earth, including the one that saw off most of the dinosaurs.
But, it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever see it again. In a statement, Berkeley suggested the evil sibling of our Sun kicked an asteroid into the Earth’s orbit, exterminating the dinosaurs, but added that it “escaped and mixed with all the other stars in our region of the Milky Way galaxy, never to be seen again”.
All told, this study tells us a lot about stars and their early days but also leaves a number of questions unanswered about our own shining star. Although, hopes are high that NASA plans to check all the boxes with the launch of Parker Solar Probe, the first spacecraft to touch the Sun’s atmosphere, in 2018.