The fastest white ‘vampire’ dwarf ever observed

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Imagine a white dwarf star that sucks material from its mate, while spinning fast, being the fastest white dwarf ever found. Even though it did not emit almost x-ray radiation, the binary system was captured and studied through a modest Zeiss telescope, at the Pico dos Dias Observatory, between Brazópolis and Piranguçu, in Minas Gerais.

Named CTCV J2056-3014, the binary system is 850 light years away. The short distance prevents the two from being seen separately; therefore, the study combined X-ray data captured by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton space telescope with information from the Brazilian observatory.

It was possible to determine, with the variation of the recorded brightness, the time that the J2056 takes to rotate: 29.6 seconds. There are few known white dwarfs with rotation times below 100 seconds, and the fastest known so far spins once every 33 seconds.

J2056 is a cataclysmic variable star. In a binary system, the dwarf star’s companion dies when it runs out of fuel or gets too close to its sister. When this happens, the dwarf star begins to suck its mate – the end will be a flash of nuclear fusion, with the massive release of energy, visible from light years away.

New class of stars

According to astronomers, the answers to the bizarre nature of this binary system may insert J2056 into a new class of cataclysmic variable stars:

The gas of the companion star could form an accretion disk around the white dwarf, but it does not, and the reason for this is unknown.
The J2056 is not emitting much X-ray radiation, which is also unusual in this type of system.
In addition to the white dwarf spinning fast (the reason is not known), her companion is not far behind: she orbits J2056 once every 1.76 hours.
“This study shows that modest equipment has its place in research”, says astrophysicist Albert Bruch, from the National Astrophysics Laboratory.


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