Astronomers Find Rare 5-Star System


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An illustration of two contacting stars — part of the newly discovered bizarre five-star system.

Scientists have discovered an absolutely bizarre star system about 250 light years away, in the constellation Ursa Major.

The system (officially known as 1SWASP J093010.78+533859.5) features five stars that are all gravitationally bound together. Two orbit each other in what’s called a contact eclipsing binary, meaning they’re so close together that they actually share an atmosphere, with gases flowing between them.

Another two stars also orbit each other, but at a much greater distance — about 1.8 million miles, which is more than twice the diameter of the sun. Another star hangs out near that pair, but doesn’t appear to orbit them.

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Systems that include five stars gravitationally bound together are rare, though not unprecedented (astronomers have actually found systems that include as many as six stars). But this is the first one ever found that includes multiple pairs of stars orbiting each other.

The discoverers of the strange system — a team of astronomers from Open University in the UK and elsewhere — presented all these discoveries in a new paper published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. Thanks to George Dvorsky at io9 for bringing it to our attention.

Source: vox.com

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Amateur astronomer spots supernova in nearby galaxy


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SUPERNOVA

Two images taken six years apart highlight the new supernova discovered in the M61 galaxy 

An amateur astronomer has detected an exploding star in a bright, nearby galaxy. Koichi Itagaki, who has found over 80 such supernovas, noticed the exploding star as a brilliant point of light in the spiral galaxy M61, which sits a mere 55 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo.

Supernovas come in two flavors: the violent destruction of a very massive star or a thermonuclear eruption on the surface of an exposed stellar core. The explosions are rare, so finding one within our galactic neighborhood gives researchers a unique chance to study them up close.

Source :  Science news