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White Dwarfs: Important Points

White Dwarf:

An international team has reported a unique phenomenon in a white dwarf about 1,400 light years from Earth. They saw the white dwarf lose its brightness in 30 minutes.

  • These gaps in brightness have been previously reported but the process usually takes place over a period of several days to months.
  • The team observed the phenomena using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
  • The white dwarf is part of a binary system called TW Pictoris, where a star and a white dwarf orbit each other.
  • The two objects are so close to each other that the star transfers material to the white dwarf.
  • As this material approaches the white dwarf it forms an accretion disk or a disk of gas, plasma, and other particles around it. TW Pictoris is located in the Pictoris constellation, and the binary system is about 1400 light years from us.
  • The team notes that a process called magnetic gating may be at play. This happens when the magnetic field is spinning so rapidly it creates a barrier disrupting the amount of food the white dwarf can receive.
  • The team hopes that this discovery will help us understand the physics behind accretion – how black holes and neutron stars feed material from their nearby stars.
  • A typical white dwarf is half the size of our Sun and has a surface gravity 100,000 times that of Earth. Using the Hubble Space telescope and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), astronomers have identified several white dwarfs over the years.