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Red Explosions Reveal Secret Life Of Binary Stars


Hubble space telescope images show an expanding burst of light from a red supergiant star. Image: NASA/ESA

Hubble space telescope images show an expanding burst of light from a red supergiant star. Image: NASA/ESA

A University of Alberta professor has revealed the workings of a celestial event involving binary stars that produce an explosion so powerful its luminosity ranks close to that of a supernova, an exploding star.

Theoretical astrophysicist Natalia Ivanova says researchers have long debated about what happens when binary stars, two stars that orbit one another, come together in a “common envelope.” “When this dramatic cannibalizing event ends there are two possible outcomes: the two stars merge into a single star or an initial binary transforms into an exotic short-period one,” said Ivanova. The event is believed to take anywhere from a dozen days to a few hundred years to complete—an extremely fast time frame in terms of celestial events, Ivanova says.

More than half of all stars in the universe are binary stars, but Ivanova says it was not known what a common envelope event would look like until now.

Full Story: http://www.news.ualberta.ca/article.aspx?id=37D4798A034F42F39CDC8080F7037942

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