Nasa’s Kepler was in great luck when it stumbled upon this star system as it was looking in the right direction when this star system underwent the super-outburst.
Illustration shows newly discovered dwarf nova system in which white dwarf star is pulling material off brown dwarf companion | Photo: Nasa and L Hustak (STScI)
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) spacecraft called Kepler has witnessed an unusual super-outburst from a perviously unknown dwarf nova.
Kepler, designed to spot exoplanets by looking for stars that dim as a palnet as a planet crosses the star’s face, came across the system which brightened by a factor of 1,600 over less than a day before slowly fading away.
THE STAR SYSTEM
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, according to a Nasa report.
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 4,00,000 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).
Kepler explored structure and diversity of planetary systems with a special emphasis on the detection of Earth-size planets | Photo from Nasa
KEPLER’S LUCK BY CHANCE
Kepler was in great luck when it stumbled upon this star system as it was looking in the right direction when this star system underwent the super-outburst.
The super-outburst brightened by more than 1,000 time.
Kepler’s rapid cadence of observations, taking data every 30 minutes, was crucial for catching every detail of the outburst, the Nasa said.
“In a sense, we discovered this system accidentally. We weren’t specifically looking for a super-outburst. We were looking for any sort of transient,” Ryan Ridden-Harper of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), Baltimore, Maryland, and the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia said.
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