AUG 20, 2016 05:51 AM PDT

Astronomers Observe White Dwarf that Lashes Out at Binary Companion

A very interesting binary star system subbed AR Scorpii some 380 light years away from our planet contains both a red dwarf and a white dwarf, but the qualities of this binary system in particular are what are making it an interesting system to observe.
 
Scientists were amazed to find that the white dwarf appeared to pulse every 1.97 seconds, which unleashed a lash of radiation towards the red dwarf in the same system. Such pulses are typically seen in neutron stars, but not white dwarfs, however astronomers have theorized that white dwarfs might be able to behave in similar ways.
 

An artist's rendition of the white dwarf lashing out at its companion red dwarf.

 Image Credit: M. Garlick/University of Warwick/ESO

The pulses are essentially excited electrons that get ejected from the white dwarf at nearly the speed of light, and the activity is reported to light up the entire system every time it happens.
 
AR Scorpii, also called AR Sco for short, was originally discovered in the 1970’s, but at the time we knew so little about the system that it was thought that the light effects were the result of a variable star. The latest observations, however, refute this idea and bring on some new theories.
 
The findings are published in the journal Nature.
 
“AR Scorpii was discovered over 40 years ago, but its true nature was not suspected until we started observing it in 2015,” said lead researcher Tom Marsh of the University of Warwick. “We realized we were seeing something extraordinary within minutes of starting the observations.”
 
The study also indicates that this is the first known binary system with a white dwarf that has been known to emit radiation at frequencies that we can pick up with radios here on Earth. This gives us something to listen to and try to learn from. Not only can they be picked up with radio, but they can also be observed with untraviolet.
 
"We've known pulsing neutron stars for nearly fifty years, and some theories predicted white dwarfs could show similar behavior,” said Boris Gänsicke, co-author of the new study. “It's very exciting that we have discovered such a system, and it has been a fantastic example of amateur astronomers and academics working together."
 
White dwarf stars are very small and compact when compared with full-sized stars, and they house a lot of energy when they are formed. Over time, they will cool because they cannot sustain themselves forever.
 
In some cases, white dwarfs can have the same density as a star as big as our Sun, but only be as large as a planet like Earth.
 
Source: ESO, Wikipedia

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
SEP 03, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 03, 2018
High-Speed Solar Wind May Pose a Greater Risk to Satellites Than Geomagnetic Storms
The satellites that we put into space to orbit the Earth and explore distant worlds are comprised of highly sensitive electronics. With that in mind, they...
SEP 04, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 04, 2018
This NASA Rocket Will Spend 15 Minutes Gawking at the Sun with X-Ray Vision
NASA is currently eyeballing Friday, September 7th for the third consecutive launch of its Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager (FOXSI), a space vehicle spec...
SEP 10, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 10, 2018
The James Webb Space Telescope May Help Astronomers Search for Alien Life
Despite an onslaught of delays that have thus far prevented NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope from being launched into space, the space observatory p...
OCT 15, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 15, 2018
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is Back Up and Running
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory was recently kicked into safe mode following a mysterious anomaly. Spacecraft engineers have been working around the...
OCT 17, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 17, 2018
Should We Build a Space Elevator?
Rockets are the primary means of sending cargo to and from space, but chemical burns are incredibly expensive, and this has some firms looking into alterna...
NOV 03, 2018
Earth & The Environment
NOV 03, 2018
The battle of the scientists vs. Hawaiin conservationists, featuring: a telescope
The controversy between Hawaiian conservationists and scientists intensifies with the Supreme Court’s recent approval of the 18-story Thirty Meter Te...
Loading Comments...