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Newly discovered ‘micronovae’ shoot out of the magnetic poles of cannibalistic stars

Artist’s impression of a “micronovae” shooting out of a white dwarf in a binary system. (Photo credit: Mark Garlick (http://www.markgarlick.com/))

Astronomers have spotted a never-before-seen type of starburst. The newly discovered cosmic explosions are around a million times less intense than similar explosions, which is why the researchers call the tiny detonations “micronovae”.

The new type of “mini” explosion is a variation on a classic nova, a powerful explosion that can occur in binary star systems – where two stars are trapped in stable orbit around each other. In these systems, the more massive partner can strip stellar material from the skin of its smaller partner. The superheated plasma stripped from the smaller star, composed mostly of hydrogen, then forms a shell of gas around the more massive star, slowly blending into the cannibal star. However, sometimes this gas can become so dense and hot that it explodes before being absorbed by the large star. The resulting explosion is very powerful and envelops the entire surface of the star, but does not destroy it. Classic novas appear as intense flashes of light, seen here Earth with advanced telescopes; these flashes can last for several weeks or even months. (Classical novae should not be confused with supernovae, which occur when stars are much more massive than the Sun collapse and fully explode.)

Newly discovered ‘micronovae’ shoot out of the magnetic poles of cannibalistic stars Source link Newly discovered ‘micronovae’ shoot out of the magnetic poles of cannibalistic stars

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