A student astronomer Ethan Kruse found a self-lensing binary star system in the Lycra constellation. A binary star system is a place where two stars are so close that their gravitational interaction causes them to orbit about a common centre of mass.
KOI-3278 looks like an upside-down planet and it could pave the way for new method of studying binary star systems. This discovery was done at the University of Washington by using the planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope. The details of the study were published on 18 April 2014 edition of journal Science.
The two stars of KOI-3278, at a distance of about 2600 light-years (a light-year is 5.88 trillion miles) take turns being nearer to earth as they orbit each other in every 88.18 days. The two stars are about 43 million miles apart, approx distance of planet Mercury from Sun. The white dwarf, a cooling star thought to be in the final stage of life, is about Earth's size but 200000 times more massive.
The finding has improved a research of 2013 undertaken by the California Institute of Technology, which detected similar self-lensing effect minus the brightening of the light because the two stars being studied were much closer together.
White dwarfs are used as indicators of age in the galaxy in astronomy. Expansion of understanding of white dwarfs help astronomers by taking them a step closer to learn the age of galaxy.
The research was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA.
What is Gravitational Lensing?
Gravitational Lensing is a common tool of astronomy that is used to detect planets around the distant stars within the Milky Way Galaxy. This process is among the first methods used to confirm Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Lensing within the Milky Way Galaxy similar to same is called as microlensing.