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News Release 08-104

Newly Born Twin Stars Are Far From Identical

NSF-funded basic research may cause astronomers to re-examine the masses and ages of young stars and star formation theories

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Photo of twin stars observed in the Orion Nebula, 1,500 light years from the Earth.

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. 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.

Credit: NASA-JPL/HST and David James (Vanderbilt)

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Keivan Stassun, associate professor of astronomy at Vanderbilt University, describes a surprising discovery--two very young twin stars in the Orion Nebula that have different temperatures, brightnesses and, probably, diameters. The finding could help scientists to develop a better understanding of how twin stars are born.

Credit: National Science Foundation / Vanderbilt University