NASA/STScI: Vampire Star System Undergoing Super-Outburst

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NASA/STScI: Vampire Star System Undergoing Super-Outburst

Post by bystander » Fri Jan 24, 2020 9:06 pm

Kepler Witnessed Vampire Star System Undergoing Super-Outburst
NASA | GSFC | STScI | HubbleSite | 2020 Jan 24
NASA's Kepler spacecraft was designed to find exoplanets by looking for stars that dim as a planet crosses the star's face. Fortuitously, the same design makes it ideal for spotting other astronomical transients – objects that brighten or dim over time. A new search of Kepler archival data has uncovered an unusual super-outburst from a previously unknown dwarf nova. The system brightened by a factor of 1,600 over less than a day before slowly fading away.

The star system in question consists of a white dwarf star with a brown dwarf companion about one-tenth as massive as the white dwarf. A white dwarf is the leftover core of an aging Sun-like star and contains about a Sun's worth of material in a globe the size of Earth. A brown dwarf is an object with a mass between 10 and 80 Jupiters that is too small to undergo nuclear fusion.

The brown dwarf circles the white dwarf star every 83 minutes at a distance of only 250,000 miles (400,000 km) – about the distance from Earth to the Moon. They are so close that the white dwarf's strong gravity strips material from the brown dwarf, sucking its essence away like a vampire. The stripped material forms a disk as it spirals toward the white dwarf (known as an accretion disk).

It was sheer chance that Kepler was looking in the right direction when this system underwent a super-outburst, brightening by more than 1,000 times. In fact, Kepler was the only instrument that could have witnessed it, since the system was too close to the Sun from Earth's point of view at the time. Kepler's rapid cadence of observations, taking data every 30 minutes, was crucial for catching every detail of the outburst. ...

Astronomers Spot 'Vampire' Star Sucking Life from Victim
Australian National University | 2020 Jan 25

Discovery of a New WZ Sagittae-type Cataclysmic Variable in the Kepler/K2 Data ~ R. Ridden-Harper et al
Last edited by bystander on Sat Jan 25, 2020 4:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Added ANU article link
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