Washington: Astronomers have recently observed a multiple star system in the process of formation at the earliest stage for the time ever.
Multiple star systems that contain two or more stars orbiting each other are believed to be the most common type of stellar system in the Milky Way Galaxy.
However, the exact method of their formation had until now been open to debate.
Professor Stella Offner of the University of Massachusetts, and colleagues made the discovery while studying a dense core of gas called Barnard 5, located in a young star-forming region of the constellation Perseus, 800 light-years from Earth.
The authors were mapping radio emissions from methane molecules near a young proto-star when they detected fragmenting filaments of gas condensing to form three new stars.
These condensations are expected to gravitationally collapse to form stars within the next 40,000 years, a relatively short period of time by astronomical standards.
This filamentary process means to get a multiple stars forming together, rather than just a single star. The authors believe the stars in the system will eventually be between about one-tenth and one-third the mass of the Sun.
The stars are separated by between 3000 and 11,000 astronomical units (an astronomical unit was about 150 million kilometres, the average distance between the Earth and the Sun).
The high resolution observations of Barnard 5 allowed Offner and colleagues to actually see what was happening in this system.
The study is published in the journal Nature.