Exotic White Dwarf Star Lashes Neighboring Red Dwarf With Intense Radiations

Posted: Jul 28 2016, 11:22am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 28 2016, 9:31pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Exotic White Dwarf Star Lashes Neighboring Red Dwarf With Intense Radiations
Artist's impression of binary star system AR Scorpii. Credit: University of Warwick

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The radiations released by white dwarf cause the entire system to pulse almost every two minutes.

Some 380 light years away from Earth a unique binary system has been lying. The star system called AR Scorpii harbors a white dwarf star spinning at a rapid speed and emitting intense radiations that scourge the red dwarf star sitting close to it. The white dwarf releases high energy particles with such intensity that it causes the entire system to flicker almost every two minutes.

The size of the white dwarf in the system is comparable to Earth but it is 200 000 times more massive than our planet. The companion cool red dwarf is gigantic and is almost one third of the mass of the Sun. Both stars are close enough that their gravitational forces are causing them to orbit around each other and it takes 3.6 hours to complete a single orbit.

The star system was first discovered in early 1970s but it was not until May last year a group of amateur astronomers spotted a star system which brightens and fades dramatically after a regular interval. That kind of powerful pulsating has not observed before in a star system.

To understand the true nature of the system, astronomers used a multitude of telescopes on the ground and in space, including the NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and found the highly magnetic and rapidly spinning white dwarf is producing lighthouse-like beams of radiations and when these radiations strike neighboring red dwarf star, the entire system exhibits rapid variations in brightness. What triggers the powerful process in the system is still a mystery.

AR Scorpii was discovered over 40 years ago, but its true nature was not suspected until we started observing it in June 2015,” said lead researcher Tom Marsh from University of Warwick. “We realized we are seeing something extraordinary the more we progressed with our observations.”

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