Two "catastrophe" stars spin around each other every hour, and that's not the limit

Two "catastrophe" stars spin around each other every hour, and that's not the limit

About half of the Milky Way stars are solo, like our Sun. The other half revolve around other stars, sometimes in incredibly narrow orbits. According to a press release, a group of astronomers, including experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have just discovered a star dual system, a pair of stars, with so narrow orbits that they rotate around each other every 51 minutes.

This system is part of a rare class of double systems known as cataclysmic variables, with a single star, similar to the Sun, orbiting a white dwarf — a hot, dense core of a dead star.

Decades ago, astronomers predicted that these cataclysmic variables should move and move closer and closer to each other until they form incredibly close orbits. In new observations, scientists found direct evidence of a cataclysmic variable in this transition phase.

It's because they emit variable light flares that astronomers thought occurred centuries ago because of unknown cataclysms or "catastrophe" in space, actually because the white dwarf slowly absorbs or absorbs a partner star's material.

The recently discovered system, called ZTF J1813+4251, is the shortest orbit among cataclysmic systems today. Astronomers have discovered it by allowing each of the stars to blind for a moment, allowing scientists to make accurate measurements of each of them and launch simulations to see how the system will evolve over millions of years.

Modelling showed that the stars are in transition and that the sun-like star has sacrificed most of its hydrogen atmosphere to the white dwarf. In about 70 million years, the stars will get even closer. In the near future, they are likely to have an 18-minute orbit. After that, they will eventually expand and part.