FromQuarkstoQuasars

Dead Star Warps Companion’s Light

FuturismApril 7th 2013
CREDIT: James Kelley
CREDIT: James Kelley

The Kepler space telescope has spotted a white dwarf, putting Einsteins theory of general relativity into play against its companion star.

 

Due to the denseness of the star, when passing in front of its companion it bends the light; this is known as gravitational lensing. Light follows the curvature of space time, so when it passes around a massive object it is bent (insert yo’ mamma joke).

Click to see a larger image
Click to see a larger image

The companion of the white dwarf is a red dwarf named KOI-256, and initially the large drop in the brightness of KOI was thought to be a Jupiter sized exoplanet. But observations of the Palomar Observatory in California showed that the differences in luminosity were too large to be caused by the gravitational pull of an exoplanet. Therefore, it was discovered that it was a white dwarf causing these fluctuations. When the white dwarf passed behind the red dwarf, the overall luminosity of the two star system was reduced. When passing in front of it, the actual light surrounding it from the red dwarf shining in the background was warped.

 

 

The white dwarf is about the size of the Earth but has the mass of the Sun. Because of this, the red dwarf (although bigger in size) is actually circling around its mini mate.

 

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