November 30, 2022


Complete News World

Kris Holt

Researchers discover the star consumed by its smaller and darker neighbor

The Sun may be a single star in our solar system, but nearly half of all other stars in the Milky Way are part of binary systems, in which two orbit each other. They can have incredibly fast orbital periods – scientists have found two white dwarfs that take just 5 minutes and 21 seconds to orbit each other. Another binary system is noteworthy for a different reason: one star feeds on the other.

About 3000 light-years away is a binary system that belongs to a class called “catastrophic variables”. That’s an incredible term I’ll use after my next failed cooking experiment, by the way. From a space perspective, when a star similar to our Sun tightly orbits a This is a catastrophic variable. as such He notes, “Variable” relates to the combined brightness of the two stars varying over time, at least in terms of how we view the system from terra firma. Luster levels can change drastically, and that’s where the “disastrous” part comes in.

The two stars in the 8-billion-year-old system orbit each other every 51 minutes. This is the shortest known orbital period for a catastrophic variable system. The distance between the stars has narrowed over millions of years and is now closer to each other than we are to the Moon, researchers at MIT and elsewhere have determined. In a paper published in temper nature This week, researchers reported that the white dwarf is pulling material away from the sun-like partner.

“It’s an old pair of stars, where one of them moved — when stars die of old age they become white dwarfs — but then that rest started to eat its companion,” said MIT astrophysicist and lead author of the paper Kevin Bridge. Reuters. “Before the second star completed its stellar life cycle and became a white dwarf the way stars normally do — by evolving into a type of star called a red giant — the remnants of the first star’s white dwarf interrupted the end of the companion’s life cycle and slowly began to consume them.”

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

The white dwarf was chewing up hydrogen from the outer layers of the larger star, leaving the latter extraordinarily rich in helium. The larger star also turns into a teardrop shape due to the gravitational pull of the white dwarf. This is one of the reasons for the changes in the brightness levels of the binary system.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology notes that the system can emit “enormous and variable flashes of light” as a result of the hydrogen absorption process. She added that astronomers have long believed that these flashes were the result of an unknown catastrophe. While we have a clearer understanding of the situation these days, this is more evidence, as if required, that the space is equally cold and terrifying.

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