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A colossal flash has occurred on a tiny star

A colossal flash has occurred on a tiny star 86

A celestial body, which barely has enough mass to be called a star, suddenly erupted in a flash of incredible power. Astronomers wonder how this is possible.

The discovery is described in a scientific article published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Star J0331-27 is located 783 light years from Earth. It belongs to the spectral class L – the class of very small and very cold luminaries, which barely had enough mass to start thermonuclear reactions in their depths. The mass of J0331-27 is only 8% of the sun, and the surface temperature is only 1800 degrees Celsius (compared to 5500 degrees on the Sun).

There is a rule: the smaller the star, the more powerful the outbreaks occurring on it. So, the red dwarfs of class M can boast of real cosmic cataclysms that call into question the suitability of their planets for life. But astronomers did not expect that this pattern applies even to extremely cold L-stars.

According to experts, the flare is due to a sharp restructuring of the magnetic field structure in a small area of ​​the star’s surface. In this case, the energy stored in the magnetic lines is released and heats the surrounding substance. The magnetic field itself is created by plasma – a hot gas consisting of charged particles. Previously, experts believed that the surface plasma of L-dwarfs is too cold to generate a field capable of powerful “fireworks”.

Processing the data of the XMM-Newton space x-ray telescope, the authors found a flash recorded on July 5, 2008. It lasted a few minutes. During this time, 2 ”” 1033 erg of energy was released in the X-ray range alone. This is ten times the energy of the largest flares on the Sun and only half the total energy released by our star in a second (!).

Scientists call events of this magnitude superflares. They are common with the hotter M class red dwarfs, but not with the cooler L stars.

“This is the most interesting scientific part of the discovery, because we did not expect the stars [from the class] of L-dwarfs to store enough energy in their magnetic fields to cause such flashes,” admits Beate Stelzer of the University of Tübingen .

A colossal flash has occurred on a tiny star 87
The discovery was made thanks to the XMM-Newton X-ray telescope.
Illustration from esa.int

Prior to this, superflares in L-dwarfs were detected several times in visible light. However, for the first time such an event was recorded in x-rays. Moreover, J0331-27 in general became just the second L-dwarf, from which terrestrial telescopes generally caught x-ray radiation.

After analyzing the data of other observatories, the authors found the optical radiation of this outbreak. But observing it in the x-ray range is extremely important. The fact is that visible light comes from the surface of the body, and x-rays from its atmosphere. This will help astronomers figure out how such a phenomenon nevertheless became possible.

“This is a good question,” says Stelzer. “We just don’t know [the answer]. Nobody knows.”

Riddles don’t end there. The fact is that in all known stars faint flashes occur much more often than strong ones. However, XMM-Newton observed J0331-27 for a total of about 40 days and during this time did not detect any other flashes, although the sensitivity of the instrument made it possible to notice them.

It seems that the magnetic field of the L-dwarf gradually accumulates energy and at once releases it in one powerful cataclysm. This behavior is completely unusual for stars, and now astrophysicists have to deal with new facts.

New X-ray flares on L stars can help with this if they are detected. Stelzer and colleagues made their discovery by processing the XMM-Newton observation archive. It includes information on 400 thousand variable sources discovered by the telescope in 13 years. Not all data has been processed yet, so new surprises may well await scientists.

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Space

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 90
Photo: (Caltech / R. Hurt (IPAC))

To us, the Sun alone seems perfectly normal, but our solar system is actually a strange exception.

Most stars in the Milky Way galaxy have at least one companion star. In a system 1,800 light-years away, astronomers have finally confirmed the existence of a gas giant planet orbiting stars in a triple star system.

Called KOI-5, the system is located in the constellation Cygnus, and the exoplanet was confirmed ten years after it was first detected by the Kepler space telescope.

In fact, the planet – now known as KOI-5Ab – was discovered by Kepler when it began operations back in 2009.

“KOI-5Ab was dropped because it was difficult and we had thousands of other candidates,” astronomer David Siardi of NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute said.

“There were lighter dives than the KOI-5Ab, and every day we learned something new from Kepler, so the KOI-5 was almost forgotten.”

Exoplanet hunters tend to avoid the complexities of multi-star systems; of the more than 4,300 exoplanets confirmed to date, less than 10 percent are multi-star systems, although such systems dominate the galaxy. As a result, little is known about the properties of exoplanets in multi-star systems compared to those orbiting a lone star.

After Kepler’s discovery, Chardy and other astronomers used ground-based telescopes such as the Palomar Observatory, Keck Observatory, and the Gemini North Telescope to study the system. By 2014, they had identified two companion stars, KOI-5B and KOI-5C.

Scientists were able to establish that the planet KOI-5Ab, is a gas giant that is about half the mass of Saturn and 7 times the size of Earth, and is in a very close five-day orbit around KOI-5A. KOI-5A and KOI-5B, both of roughly the same mass as the Sun, form a relatively close binary system with an orbital period of about 30 years.

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 91

A third star, KOI-5C, orbits the binary system at a much greater distance, with a period of about 400 years – slightly longer than Pluto’s 248-year orbit.

“By studying this system in more detail, perhaps we can understand how planets are created in the universe.”

The discovery was announced at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

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Space

Why the universe does not fit into science

Why the universe does not fit into science 92
Photo: YouTube

Science can be compared to an artist painting what he has never seen, or to a writer describing other people’s travels: objects that he has never seen, places where he has never been. Sometimes such scientific “arts” turn out to be beautiful and interesting, but most of them will forever remain only theories, because they are beyond human capabilities.

In fact, science has the right only to speculate: how our universe appeared, how old it is, how many stars and other objects it contains.

Universe model

Why the universe does not fit into science 93

How many stars are there in the sky?

With an unarmed eye, a person can see about nine thousand stars in the sky in one cloudless and moonless night. And armed with binoculars or a telescope, much more – up to several million. However, this is much less than their true number in the universe. Indeed, only in our one galaxy (the Milky Way) there are about 400 billion stars. The exact amount, of course, is not known to science. And the visible universe contains about 170 billion galaxies.

It is worth clarifying that scientists can see the universe 46 billion light years deep in all directions. And the visible (observable) universe includes the space accessible to our eyes from the moment of the Big Explosion. In other words, only this (accessible to human perception) space science refers to our universe. Science does not consider everything that follows.

It is believed that there are supposedly a ceptillion (10 to 24 degrees) stars in our universe. These are theoretical calculations based on the approximate size and age of the universe. The origin of the universe is explained by the Big Bang theory. This is why the universe is constantly expanding and the more time passes, the more complex the universe and its components become.

Why the universe does not fit into science 94

It is not entirely correct to consider and perceive this scientific theory “head-on”. Scientists always claim that that explosion was not exactly an explosion, and the point that exploded was not the only one. After all, it was everywhere, because space did not exist then. And in general – everything happened quite differently from what is described in the Big Bang theory, but all other descriptions of the origin of the universe are even more incredible and inaccurate.

Separate but interconnected

That which is beyond the reach of human perception is usually discarded by science, or recognized as non-existent. Recognizing one thing, science does not want to recognize the existence of the other, although everything in our world is interconnected and is not able to exist separately – by itself.

Each object of the universe is a part of it much more than an independent, separate object.

Any person, like any material object of our world, consists of components: organs, cells, molecules, atoms. And each of its constituent parts can represent the whole world. Separate, and at the same time connected with all the others.

However, science, as a rule, perceives all the components of the universe – people, animals, plants, objects, the Earth, the Sun, other planets and stars – as separate subjects, thereby limiting itself.

Why the universe does not fit into science 95

Even what is considered the visible universe, one of the atoms of which could be called our solar system, is not subject to the boundaries of human perception. But perhaps the atom is an exaggeration, and our solar system is not even an atom, but one of its elements!

How, being so far from the truth, can one reason about something with the degree of probability with which science tries to reason about the origin of the universe?

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Space

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars 96

The red planet sways from side to side like a whirligig when it loses speed. The new study allowed scientists to notice that the poles of Mars deviate slightly from the axis of rotation of the planet. On average, they move 10 cm from the center with a period of 200 days.

Such changes are called the Chandler Oscillations  – after the American astronomer Seth Chandler, who discovered them in 1891. Previously, they were only seen on Earth. It is known that the displacement of the poles of rotation of our planet occurs with a period of 433 days, while the amplitude reaches 15 meters. There is no exact answer why this is happening. It is believed that the fluctuations are influenced by processes in the ocean and the Earth’s atmosphere.

Chandler’s wobbles on Mars are equally perplexing. The authors of the study discovered them by comparing data from 18 years of studying the planet. The information was obtained thanks to three spacecraft that orbit the Red Planet: Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor. 

Since Mars has no oceans, it is likely that the Red Planet’s wobbly rotation is due to changes in atmospheric pressure. This is the first explanation that researchers have shared. In the future, there should be new details about the fluctuations that have so interested the scientific community.

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