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NASA Telescopes Discover Strobe-Like Flashes in Young Stars

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Headlined to H4 2/11/13

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At www.jpl.nasa.gov


This is an artist's impression of two young binary stars that may be the source of mysterious clock-like bursts of light from an object called LRLL 54361 that lies inside the star-forming region IC 348, located 950 light-years away.
(image by Image credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech)

Two of NASA's great observatories, the Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes, have teamed up to uncover a mysterious infant star that behaves like a strobe light. Every 25.34 days the object unleashes a burst of light. Although a similar phenomenon has been observed in two other young stellar objects, this is the most powerful such beacon seen to date. The team hypothesized the pair of stars in the center of the dust cloud move around one another in a very eccentric orbit. As the stars approach each other, dust and gas are dragged from the inner edge of a surrounding disk. The material ultimately crashes onto one or both stars, which triggers a flash of light that illuminates the circumstellar dust. The system is rare because close binaries account for only a few percent of our galaxy's stellar population. This is likely a brief, transitory phase in the birth of a star system.

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At www.jpl.nasa.gov


 

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