Academic journal article Science Scope

Eclipsing Binary Star System Discovered

Academic journal article Science Scope

Eclipsing Binary Star System Discovered

Article excerpt

Astrophysicists at UC Santa Barbara are the first scientists to identify two white dwarf stars in an eclipsing binary system, allowing for the first direct radius measurement of a rare white dwarf composed of pure helium. Brief eclipses were discovered during observations of the star NLTT 11748 with the Faulkes Telescope North of the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT). NLTT 11748 is one of the few very low-mass, heliumcore white dwarfs that are under careful study for their brightness variations. Rapid snapshots of the star--about one exposure every minute--found a few consecutive images where the star was slightly fainter. The astrophysicists quickly realized the importance of this unexpected discovery.

During that night, the scientists were able to measure the changing Doppler shift of the star NLTT 11748 as it orbited its faint, but more massive, white dwarf companion. These observations led to the confirmation of an important theory about white dwarf stars. Stars end their lives in many ways. "The formation of such a binary system containing an extremely low mass helium white dwarf has to be the result of interactions and mass loss between the two original stars," said one researcher. …

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