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The star behaves very mysteriously – an “accidental discovery” in space

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from: Tanya Banner

The star Gaia1bpp is partially eclipsed by dust from its companion star. (artist rendering) © Anastasios Tzanidakis

The star is behaving strangely, becoming brighter and brighter. An American research team is looking at ancient data and making a startling discovery.

SEATTLE — University of Washington astronomers Anastasios Tzanidakis and James Davenport say they are interested in “unusual stars.” Then they received an automated warning mission “gaia” European Space Agency Isa Quite right: the data showed that the star Gaia17bpp gradually brightened over the course of two and a half years.

on me A star changes its brightness a lot, makes the experts stand up and observe, because the behavior is unusual. But in the case of Gaia17bpp, a research team led by Tzanidakis and Davenport quickly determined that the star itself isn’t changing at all — something else must be responsible for the change in brightness.

The star becomes unusually bright – without changing itself

“Based on the currently available data, this star appears to have a slow companion surrounded by a large disk of material,” Tzanidakis explains in a recent post. Message And he explains the dimensions: “If this matter were in the solar system, it would extend from the sun to the Earth’s orbit or beyond.”

In order to reach these conclusions, the research team had to do some investigative work and first collect a large amount of data on the star Gaia17bpp. In addition to data “Gaia” missions dating back to 2014Also included is information from the “Pan-Starrs1” and “Wise/Neowise” telescopes and the Zwicky Transient Facility. This is how the researchers came up with data going back to 2010.

The star is behaving strangely – the research team suspects a companion star

“Based on our analysis, the two stars orbit each other for an unusually long period of time – up to 1,000 years,” Tznidakis found. He explains how unusual it is for his team to notice a star’s brightness change at all: “The opportunity to watch this bright star as it eclipses its dusty companion is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The star Gaia17bpp has been darker than usual for nearly seven years, according to data the research team has been snooping together. From 2012 to 2019, the companion star that passed in front of Gaia17bpp appears to have blocked 98 percent of the light. What could be seen in the “Gaia” data as a bright star was actually the end of an occultation: the companion star Gaia17bpp fired again, and the light was able to penetrate space again without hindrance.

Is a small white dwarf star orbiting the star Gaia17bpp?

With the help of astronomical observations going back to the 1950s, Tznidakis and Davenport were able to gain another important insight: “In 66 years of observations, we have found no other signs of significant dimming of this star,” Tznidakis describes the discovery. What Gaia17bpp’s dusty fellow star might look like isn’t entirely clear. Preliminary data indicates that it may be a small but massive white dwarf star. It is also not clear where the dust came from.

In any case, Tzanidakis is happy with his team’s discovery: “It was a serendipitous discovery,” assures the astronomer. “Had we been a few years late, we would have missed it,” says the research team. However, the results of the study have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal Presented at the 241st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle. (tab)

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