72 Years for This Star Corresponds to 1 Day on Earth

Published by Adrien - Wednesday, February 21, 2024 - Other Languages: FR, DE, ES, PT
Source: Nature Astronomy

A team from Tsinghua University has shed light on an extraordinary binary system, dubbed TMTS J0526, through the use of the TMTS telescope (Tsinghua University-Ma Huateng Telescope for Survey).

Located approximately 2,760 light-years from our planet, this system is composed of a carbon and oxygen-rich white dwarf, and an extremely hot and small sub-dwarf star. This celestial duo is distinguished by a cosmic dance at an astonishing speed, with the smaller star completing an orbit around the larger one every 20.5 minutes, equivalent to 72 years in a single Earth day for this star. An unprecedented phenomenon in astronomical observation.

This illustration shows the binary system TMTS J0526.
Credit: Jingchuan Yu, Beijing Planetary Observatory

This discovery not only challenges our understanding of stellar dynamics; it also provides a valuable insight into the formation of sub-dwarfs, one of the most mysterious categories of stars in the Universe. The white dwarf in TMTS J0526, with a mass equivalent to 74% of that of the Sun, exerts a considerable gravitational influence on its sub-dwarf companion, which, despite its tiny size - about seven times that of Earth and thus smaller than Jupiter - shines with remarkable intensity.

Moreover, there is a phenomenon of deformation of the sub-dwarf star into an ellipsoidal shape under the effect of the gravity of the white dwarf, illustrating the power of the forces at play in these compact binary systems. Furthermore, the study of TMTS J0526 could illuminate the processes behind the creation of sub-dwarfs, these stars born from the expulsion of their envelope during a thermonuclear explosion at the level of the white dwarf, a category of explosion less powerful than a supernova.

This study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, represents a significant advancement in our quest to understand the mysteries of the Universe, highlighting the complex processes that govern the life and death of stars.
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