Variable star pulsates on only one side due to companion red dwarf

by | Mar 19, 2020 | Neutron Stars / Pulsars, Stars | 0 comments

An artistic rendering showcases the world’s first known one-sided pulsar, which is tidally locked with its companion, a red dwarf. Photo by Gabriel Pérez Díaz/IAC

A new star has been identified that is a pulsating variable star… but only half of it. In a binary system with a delta Scuti variable star and a regular red dwarf, the gravity of the tiny red dwarf is able to distort its 1.7 solar mass companion in such a way that the stars regular expansion and contraction only occurs on one side, and the regular brightening and dimming is only seen in some orientations of the binary system. This kind of star has long been theorized, but had never been seen until now. This system was spotted by the TESS spacecraft as it looked for transiting exoplanets, and showing that one scientist’s noise is another scientist’s data.  According to Don Kurtz of University of Central Lancashire, “I’ve been looking for a star like this for nearly 40 years and now we have finally found one. Gerald Handler, of Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center adds “The exquisite data from the TESS satellite meant that we could observe variations in brightness due to the gravitational distortion of the star as well as the pulsations.” As we perform more and more surveys we’re going to turn up more and more rare objects that help us see the full distribution of weird and awesome that our universe has combined objects to create.

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