Massive Binary Stars – Margaret Lazzarini – 03/04/2022

Why do the most massive stars in the universe tend to form in binary systems, orbiting around each other? Find out how these massive binary stars age differently than normal stars, sometimes resulting in spectacular explosions brighter than a billion stars shining together. Join us to learn these answers and more at a night of astronomy! Timestamps below:

00:00 Announcements
05:05 Intro to Binary Stars Presentation
05:59 Binary Stars Presentation
40:56 Intro to Q&A Panel
44:17 How long do supernovae take to explode?
52:36 How do binary stars occur: forming together or meeting later?
57:22 Are there binary “brown dwarfs” or low-mass stars in binaries?
59:16 During a black hole merger, does anything sneak out of the event horizon?
1:03:36 Can a supernova leave something other than a black hole or neutron star?
1:11:24 How massive do stars get, and how quickly can they die?
1:15:04 How do we identify binary stars in the x-ray?
1:18:37 What is your favorite phase of massive binary evolution?
1:20:16 Is the black hole field laplacian? Do we observe quantum gravity fluctuations?
1:21:54 How many generations of stars have there been?
1:26:35 Can JWST detect a supenova from just after the Big Bang?
1:31:28 Can triple star systems have a common envelope?
1:33:18 Which of the four fundamental forces is electron degeneracy pressure?
1:36:59 What background does a university student need for astrophysics research?
1:42:10 What is created by two white dwarfs merging?
1:45:23 How can one differentiate between stars and accretion disks?
1:47:40 Can one member of a binary become ejected after the other goes supernova?
1:52:26 Are there anti-matter stars?
1:55:05 What was the weirdest astrophysical result you learned in the last year or two?
2:03:47 Concluding Remarks

Stars come in a range of masses and sizes. The most massive ones, more than 8 times the mass of our Sun, will go on to form black holes or neutron stars at the end of their lives. These massive stars play an important role in our universe by producing high-energy radiation and creating heavy elements. Most massive stars form in binary systems, where two massive stars orbit around each other. As they age, these massive binary stars can interact in various ways including mass transfer from one to the other, merging the two stars together, or even one star exploding in an energetic supernova! In this talk, I’ll discuss how we use observations across the electromagnetic spectrum to view these massive binary stars in X-rays, ultraviolet, and visible wavelengths of light to learn more about the secret lives of these massive stars.


Dr. Margaret Lazzarini is a postdoctoral researcher in observational astrophysics at Caltech. She studies evolved massive binary stars using observations from multiple space-based telescopes. She was a high school teacher before getting her Ph.D. in astronomy and is passionate about STEM education. She enjoys swimming, being outside, and spending time with her family, especially her adorable dog, Melba.

Dr. Ilaria Caiazzo is an astrophysics postdoctoral fellow at Caltech. She is interested in stars, in their lives and in their afterlives. Her main focus is on the remnants of stellar deaths: white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. When she’s not looking at stars, she is watching movies, and she sometimes writes or produces small ones.

Dr. Kyle Kremer is an astrophysics postdoctoral fellow at Caltech. He develops N-body simulations of dense stellar clusters, with a particular focus upon the formation and evolution of black hole binaries within these environments. Before earning his PhD in astronomy at Northwestern in Chicago, Kyle spent several years pursuing a career as an orchestra musician. Aside from astronomy, you’re most likely to find Kyle playing trumpet or playing golf.

Dr. Cameron Hummels is a postdoctoral researcher in theoretical astrophysics at Caltech. He creates supercomputer simulations to study the formation and evolution of galaxies since the Big Bang. In addition to astrophysics and public education, he is really enthusiastic about trail-running, long-distance backpacking, brewing, chess, and the astronaut program.

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