A group of astronomers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) just discovered a new one black Widow. A find of this type may seem unusual for professionals in this specialty. But this is not about the famous spider and not about the Marvel character. Actually, it’s kind of a star that spins very fast, engulfing a companion star. Just like a spider with its partners.
This is not the first time such a phenomenon has been observed. In fact, at least a couple of dozen of them are already known. stellar black widows. However, this one is special for two reasons. On the one hand, since the stars rotate with shortest orbital period observed in pairs of this type. On the other hand, because it seems that there is the third star that revolves around themlike a voyeur who approaches to watch the tragedy.
This curious black widow was described in a study recently published in Naturewhich also explains the new method for detect such phenomena. And the fact is that, unlike previous cases, these scientists did not focus on the signals of the hunter, but on the signals of the prey.
New methods for finding black widow stars
Before talking about black widows, we must remember that pulsarssince they form a fundamental part of a pair of stars.
These are neutron stars that rotate very quickly on their own, emitting very intense radiation based on gamma rays and x-rays. When they spin, they run out of fuel, so they die quickly. However, it may be that understand another nearby star and attract it to you, stealing a part of the matter, they will process continue to exist. Therefore, one can roughly say that there is to your couple. how black Widow
They are usually located along x-ray and gamma detection emitted by the pulsar. However, the authors of the just-published study thought that perhaps the swallowed star might also have something to say. The side that encountered the black widow gets high radiation, to the point where it is thousands of times hotter than the opposite side. So if they measured visible light, they could also find clues to the presence of this curious couple.
To do this, they took wide-angle images of the sky taken at the observatory. Zwicky Detention Center, In California. Their goal was to look for stars that changed dramatically in brightness by a factor of 10 or more in an hour or less. According to one of the authors of the study, Kevin Burgeinstead of looking for a pulsar, they wanted to find the star it was “cooking”.
But first they had to check if this method works for spotted black widow, so they were looking for some of those that were discovered earlier. They managed to find twelve, so the technique seemed effective, so they used it to scan the sky for something new. This is how they came up with ZTF J1406+1222.
Two big features of these stars
At least two dozen are known black widows in the milky way. However, this one has two features that the others do not have: an orbital period and a third star.
The orbital period is the shortest of all previously discovered black widows, since the pulsar and its companion circle each other every 62 minutes. Instead, the third star discovered by these MIT scientists orbits it. every 10,000 years.
However, it would be necessary to study this star voyeur at greater depth to make sure both its period and that it really does revolve around a black widow. In any case, this is a very special find, not only because it added another candidate to the list of these space-eaters, but also because scientists now have a new way to find them. Who knows? Perhaps from now on, his discovery will become something much more common.
Source: Hiper Textual