A blue ring nebula from a stellar merger several thousand years ago

Keri Hoadley, D. Christopher Martin, Brian D. Metzger, Mark Seibert, Andrew McWilliam, Ken J. Shen, James D. Neill, Gudmundur Stefansson, Andrew Monson, Bradley E. Schaefer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Stellar mergers are a brief but common phase in the evolution of binary star systems1,2. These events have many astrophysical implications; for example, they may lead to the creation of atypical stars (such as magnetic stars3, blue stragglers4 and rapid rotators5), they play an important part in our interpretation of stellar populations6 and they represent formation channels of compact-object mergers7. Although a handful of stellar mergers have been observed directly8,9, the central remnants of these events were shrouded by an opaque shell of dust and molecules10, making it impossible to observe their final state (for example, as a single merged star or a tighter, surviving binary11). Here we report observations of an unusual, ring-shaped ultraviolet (‘blue’) nebula and the star at its centre, TYC 2597-735-1. The nebula has two opposing fronts, suggesting a bipolar outflow of material from TYC 2597-735-1. The spectrum of TYC 2597-735-1 and its proximity to the Galactic plane suggest that it is an old star, yet it has abnormally low surface gravity and a detectable long-term luminosity decay, which is uncharacteristic for its evolutionary stage. TYC 2597-735-1 also exhibits Hα emission, radial-velocity variations, enhanced ultraviolet radiation and excess infrared emission—signatures of dusty circumstellar disks12, stellar activity13 and accretion14. Combined with stellar evolution models, the observations suggest that TYC 2597-735-1 merged with a lower-mass companion several thousand years ago. TYC 2597-735-1 provides a look at an unobstructed stellar merger at an evolutionary stage between its dynamic onset and the theorized final equilibrium state, enabling the direct study of the merging process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-391
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume587
Issue number7834
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 19 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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