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The Cataclysmic Binary System With The Shortest Orbital Period Has Been Discovered By Astronomers

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Cataclysmic Binary System

Cataclysmic Binary System

The shortest known orbital period for a binary system, 51 minutes, has been discovered for a pair of stars orbiting one another. The pair is a member of a specialised category of binary systems called cataclysmic variables, in which a star similar to the Sun orbits a white dwarf, the extremely hot and dense remnant of a star. The white dwarf star is periodically ejecting material in violent outbursts after vampiric feeding on material from the atmosphere of its binary companion. The stars in the system, known as ZTF J1813+4251, are positioned so that they periodically eclipse one another, enabling astronomers to precisely measure the characteristics of both stars.

These measurements were put to use by the astronomers to run simulations and look into the system’s evolution hundreds of millions of years in the future. The scientists came to the conclusion that the Sun-like star’s hydrogen atmosphere would gradually be stripped away by the white dwarf, leaving behind a core rich in helium. The system’s Sun-like star is nearing the end of its lifespan. Over the next 70 million years, the stars should move even closer together, with the orbital period decreasing to 18 minutes, before they start to enlarge and drift apart. The binary system is actually changing to ultrashort orbits, which is in line with long-standing theoretical predictions of such systems. The first direct observation of a changing cataclysmic variable system is ZTF J1813+4251.

Dr. Kevin Burdge, an astronomer “This is a unique instance in which we observed one of these systems transitioning from hydrogen to helium accretion. It was long debated whether these objects’ orbits could become so brief as to produce detectable gravitational waves, despite predictions that they would eventually transition to ultrashort orbits. This finding disproves that.”

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