Thorne–Żytkow Object (TZO) – A star within a star

Thorne-Żytkow Tzo

When we were kids, we had no clue how stars were born. There were many ideas, some of which now seem inane in retrospect, but the actual process was unknown. If you’re thinking that a star gobbling up another star doesn’t make sense, this article will make you change your mind.

Let us just understand what happens in the life of a huge star (> 10 times solar mass).

A giant star starts generating energy by fusing hydrogen atoms to form Helium. This, however, takes millions of years to happen. The Helium core formed, will then try to fuse Helium atoms to form Beryllium because of the high temperature of the core. The star becomes a red supergiant. In the subsequent millions of years, a series of nuclear reactions take place forming different cores which would lead to an iron core. At this point, when the star starts to fuse iron, the huge amount of energy absorbed would lead to a gravitational collapse, blowing away the outer layers of the star. The resulting explosion is called a Supernova.

If the core survives the explosion, it would lead to a very dense Neutron star (core mass < 3 solar masses) or a Black Hole (core mass > 3 solar masses)

Thorne–Żytkow (TZO’s), first theorized by astronomers Dr. Kip Thorne and Dr. Anna Zytkow, is a star which shows different characteristics to that of a red supergiant.
The inner core of a TZO contains high amounts of Molybdenum, Rubidium, and Lithium. This would also be present in a supergiant, but not in abundance. The neutron star inside is believed to power the TZO.

This deviation in a TZO is what led scientists to believe that the neutron star has been gobbled up by the supergiant. Research is still being conducted in this area.

Furthermore, most of us, with the least understanding of the universe, wouldn’t have the slightest clue of something as mesmerizing as this. Stay tuned to this space to read more enthralling articles! Let us together know the world around us and how fascinatingly they work.

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