University of Leeds scientists recently made a groundbreaking discovery that could change our understanding of massive Be stars in the Universe. Their research uses Gaia satellite data to suggest that Be stars might actually exist in triple star systems rather than just binary systems.
Be stars are a specific subset of B stars surrounded by a characteristic gas disc similar to the rings of Saturn. Their formation has confounded scientists for nearly 150 years. Until recently, it was commonly believed that these discs were created by the rapid rotation of Be stars due to their interaction in binary systems with another star.
However, the University of Leeds study reveals a different story. By tracking the movements of these stars using Gaia satellite data, researchers were surprised to find evidence suggesting that Be stars are possibly part of triple systems, not just binary systems. This could not only redefine our understanding of these stars but also have broader implications for phenomena such as black holes, neutron stars, and gravitational waves.
Influential figures in the study like PhD student Jonathan Dodd and Professor René Oudmaijer believe that the implications of their findings could have a significant impact on black holes, neutron star research, and the study of gravitational wave sources. Additionally, their work points out the importance of recognizing triple star systems, not just binary systems, in furthering astronomy research.
The team behind this discovery, including PhD student Mr. Dodd and Prof. Oudmaijer from Leeds, has been supported by funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Their research is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.