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An 'impossible' white dwarf star that current theories say is too small to have formed in its apparent circumstances has been found using Kepler space telescope data.
The star — which orbits another Sun-like star in a binary system — is so small that it would have taken longer than the age of the universe to evolve on its own.
Time - Companion - Star - Evolution - Matter
At the same time, however, it is not close enough to its companion star to have had its evolution accelerated by being stripped of matter so it ran out of fuel faster.
Other theories for how the white could have formed have been dismissed as 'unsatisfying', the researchers explained.
Experts - Stars - Enigma
While experts may be somewhat stumped right now, finding similar stars in future may allow this enigma to be resolved.
Astrophysicist Kento Masuda of Princeton University in New Jersey and colleagues discovered the binary star system — dubbed KIC 8145411 — in data collected by the Kepler space telescope before it was deactivated in October 2018.
System - System - Mass - Star - Light
The system is special in that it is only the fifth known 'self-lensing' system, in which the mass of one star distorts the light from the other as it passes in front of it.
In order for this phenomena to be visible on Earth, the two stars have to have an orbit that is aligned edge-on from our perspective, so that the dwarf star can appear to pass directly in front of the other.
Researchers - Observations - System - Fred - Lawrence
To investigate further, the researchers then made new observations of the unusual system using the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona and the Subaru telescope in Hawaii.
The team were able to confirm that they were looking at a white dwarf around a fifth of the mass of the Sun that was orbiting around a Sun-like star.
White - Dwarf - Stars - Stars - Sun
White dwarf stars form when stars like the sun run out of...
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