Researchers discover the star is being consumed by its smaller, deadlier neighbor

Researchers discover the star is being consumed by its smaller, deadlier neighbor
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The sun may be a lone star in our solar system, but about half of all other stars in the Milky Way are part of binary systems in which the two orbit each other. These can have incredibly fast orbital periods – scientists have found two white dwarfs orbiting each other lasting just 5 minutes and 21 seconds. Another binary system is notable for a different reason: one star feasts on the other.

About 3,000 light-years away there is a binary system belonging to a class of so-called “terrible variables.” By the way, it’s an incredible term I’ll use after my next failed baking attempt. In space terms, when a star like our sun orbits tightly, , it’s a disaster variable. Aspect Notes, “variable” relates to the combined brightness of two stars varying over time, at least in terms of how we view the system from terra firma. These brightness levels can vary considerably, which is where the “awesome” part comes into play.

The two stars in the 8 billion-year-old system in question orbit each other every 51 minutes. This is the shortest known orbital period for a catastrophic variable system. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and elsewhere have determined that the distance between stars has narrowed over millions of years, and they are now closer to each other than the Moon. In an article published in Nature This week, researchers noted that the white dwarf is pulling material from its Sun-like partner.

“This is an ancient stellar pair where one of the two persists—they become white dwarfs when stars die of old age—but then this remnant began to eat up its companion,” said MIT astrophysicist and paper’s lead author Kevin Burdge. Reuters. “Just before the second star ended its stellar life cycle and became a white dwarf as stars normally do – evolving into a type of star called a red giant – the remaining white dwarf remnant of the first star interrupted the end of the universe’s companion life cycle and slowly began to consume. started.”

The researchers found that the larger star had a temperature similar to the Sun, but reduced to about 10 percent of the diameter of our celestial neighbor. Now about the size of Jupiter. The white dwarf is much smaller, with a diameter of about 1.5 times that of Earth. However, it has a dense core and has a mass of about 56 percent of the mass of our Sun.

The white dwarf is gnawing hydrogen from the outer layers of the larger star, leaving the latter unusually rich in helium. The larger star turns into a teardrop shape due to the gravitational force of the white dwarf. This is one reason for the variation in the brightness levels of the binary system.

MIT notes that the system may emit “enormous, variable flashes of light” as a result of the hydrogen-consuming process. He added that long ago, astronomers believed these flashes were the result of an unknown catastrophe. While we have a clearer understanding of the situation these days, this is more proof that space is cool and equally spooky, as if needed.

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