A ‘vampire’ star has been discovered by astronomers with the help of an automated program that sifts through archived data from the Kepler Space Telescope. The program acts like a detective, finding clues about mysterious explosions in the universe. Ryan Ridden-Harper, the lead researcher, said that the program has discovered a dwarf nova comprising of a white dwarf, hogging on a brown dwarf companion.
The brown dwarf, which is 10 times lesser in size, is a failed star that looks like a planet. “The rare event we found was a super-outburst from the dwarf nova, which can be thought of like a vampire star system,” said Mr. Ridden-Harper, who conducted the study as part of his Ph.D. at The Australian National University (ANU). “The incredible data from Kepler reveals a 30-day period during which the dwarf nova rapidly became 1,600 times brighter before dimming quickly and gradually returning to its normal brightness,” Ridden continued.
The increase in brightness was due to the stripped material from the brown dwarf that coiled around the white dwarf like a disk. At the peak of its super-outburst, the disk reached up to 11,700 degrees Celsius.
The program is designed to find rare astronomical events like gamma-ray bursts from core-collapse supernovae, colliding neutrons or phenomena that haven’t been seen before through optical telescopes.
The discovery of this dwarf nova was unexpected since it wasn’t what we were searching for, but it provided excellent data and new insights into these vampire star systems,” said Mr. Ridden-Harper. “The next steps for this project are to comb through all Kepler data and extend it to data from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which is known as TESS,” he added.He also shared, “This will give us the best understanding of the most rapid explosions in the universe. Along the way, we might discover some rare events that no other telescope could find.”