Washington, December 24 (ANI): A new study has shown that stars known as blue stragglers have been rejuvenated by a sort of "cosmic facelift", courtesy stellar collisions and a process sometimes called vampirism.
Stars in globular clusters are generally extremely old, with ages of 12-13 billion years.
However, a small fraction of them appear to be significantly younger than the average population and, because they seem to have been left behind by the stars that followed the normal path of stellar evolution and became red giants, have been dubbed blue stragglers.
Blue stragglers appear to regress from "old age" back to a hotter and brighter "youth", gaining a new lease on life in the process.
A team of astronomers used Hubble to study the blue straggler star content in Messier 30, which formed 13 billion years ago and was discovered in 1764 by Charles Messier.
Located about 28,000 light-years away from Earth, this globular cluster - a swarm of several hundred thousand stars - is about 90 light-years across.
Researchers have been studying these stars for many years and knew that blue stragglers are indeed old.
They were thought to have arisen in a tight binary system. In such a pair, the less massive star acts as a "vampire", siphoning fresh hydrogen from its more massive companion star.
The new fuel supply allows the smaller star to heat up, growing bluer and hotter - behaving like a star at an earlier stage in its evolution.
The new study shows that some of the blue stragglers have instead been rejuvenated by a sort of "cosmic facelift", courtesy of cosmic collisions.
These stellar encounters are nearly head-on collisions in which the stars might actually merge, mixing their nuclear fuel and re-stoking the fires of nuclear fusion.
Merged stars and binary systems would both be about twice the typical mass of individual stars in the cluster.
According to team member Giacomo Beccari from ESA, "Our observations demonstrate that blue stragglers formed by collisions have slightly different properties from those formed by vampirism. This provides a direct demonstration that the two formation scenarios are valid and that they are both operating simultaneously in this cluster." (ANI)