Roughly half the stars in the Milky Way come in pairs, or binary systems, where two stars orbit one another in an endless cosmic dance (well, sometimes the dance ends in cataclysmic, fiery star death). Other stars live in clusters, like the one shown above in the Flame Nebula, 1,400 light-years away. These clusters are kind of like enormous family groups. Here, each stellar sister is born from the same clouds of collapsing gas and dust as her siblings.
Scientists used to think the oldest, first-born stars lived in the clusterâ€™s center, where stellar ingredients are more dense and plentiful and itâ€™s easier to make stars. But two new studies, posted to the arXiv [1,2], suggest this isnâ€™t necessarily true. When astronomers studied sun-like stars in the Flame Nebula, and in another star cluster in the Orion Nebula, they found the oldest stars on the familiesâ€™ fringes â€” in regions where it should take longer to light a star.
â€œOur findings are counterintuitive,â€ said Konstantin Getman of Penn State University, in a statement. â€œIt means we need to think harder and come up with more ideas of how stars like our sun are formed.â€