This infrared image contains a bright, fan-shaped object (lower right quadrant) thought to be a binary star that emits light pulses as the two stars interact. The primitive binary system is located in the IC 348 region of the Perseus molecular cloud
Astronomers have known for several decades that stars are born inside egg-shaped cocoons called dense cores, which are sprinkled throughout immense clouds of cold, molecular hydrogen that are the nurseries for young stars.
Through an optical telescope, these clouds look like holes in the starry sky, because the dust accompanying the gas blocks light from both the stars forming inside and the stars behind.
The clouds can, however, be probed by radio telescopes, since the cold dust grains in them emit at these radio wavelengths, and radio waves are not blocked by the dust.
Using data collected by the world’s most advanced telescopes, scientists have been able to glean new insights into the birth of stars.
They found that the only way to explain the observations is to assume that all stars of masses around that of the sun start off as binaries in egg-shaped dense cores, after which some 60 per cent split up over time.
The rest shrink to form tight binaries.
‘As the egg contracts, the densest part of the egg will be toward the middle, and that forms two concentrations of density along the middle axis,’ said Steven Stahler, a UC Berkeley research astronomer.
‘These centers of higher density at some point collapse in on themselves because of their self-gravity to form Class 0 stars.’
‘Within our picture, single low-mass, sunlike stars are not primordial.
‘They are the result of the breakup of binaries.’