Astronomers have for the first time ever observed a baby star 40 times the size of our sun ‘giving birth’ to another star.
Small rocks are often found around the churning balls of gas while they are in their infancy and it has long been known that this cosmic soup can create planets.
But scientists say this process has never been seen creating other stars – until now.
The team say this is one of the first examples of a ‘fragmented’ disc being detected around a young star.
It is believed the star is forming in the same way that our planet was, from a mass of swirling space debris in the orbit of a giant sun.
A disc of dust and gas surrounds the newly forming star and as it spins at high speed this material clumps together to form planets.
Astronomers from the University of Leeds were investigating the surrounding rotating disc of gas and dust and detected a faint object, MM 1b, in orbit around MM 1a.
Research Fellow Dr John Ilee from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds explained: ‘Stars form within large clouds of gas and dust in interstellar space.
‘When these clouds collapse under gravity, they begin to rotate faster, forming a disc around them.
‘In low mass stars like our sun, it is in these discs that planets can form.
‘In this case, the star and disc we have observed is so massive that, rather than witnessing a planet forming in the disc, we are seeing another star being born.’
By measuring the amount of radiation emitted by the dust, and subtle shifts in the frequency of light emitted by the gas, the researchers were able to calculate the mass of MM 1a and MM 1b.