Hidden Nook

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Two Stars About To Merge

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(Cross Posted on Blogger News)

(Space.com) MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Two dense stars whipping around each other at breakneck speed may be the strongest known source of Einstein's space-trembling gravity waves...

The implied separation is just 50,000 miles – a mere one-fifth the distance between the Earth and the Moon, making this the closest stellar pair ever observed. The tangled duo should be booming out gravity waves – undulations in the fabric of space and time predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity.

These stars apparently are only white dwarfs which allows them to orbit so closely. These white dwarfs have about half of the mass of our Sun, and appear to be like dancers with one "smiling X-rays towards it's partner" while the other star simply reflects "that smile."

Questions remain as to what mechanism is causing the observed X-rays to go on and off. One possibility is that a hot X-ray spot on one of the dwarfs comes in and out of our view as the dwarfs rotate around each other.

Evidence for this hypothesis comes from the fact that the pair blinks in visible light as well. The timing of the visible flashes are opposite that of the X-ray flashes: just as the X-rays turn on/off, the visible turns off/on.

The stars are expected to merge in the next half million to a million years. If one is interested in seeing what this merger of stars might look like, they can simply click here for a preview.

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By Darnell Clayton • 6:53 PM • Email Post • •


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