Astronomers may have found a new kind of star: one that’s shaped like a teardrop and pulsates on only one side!
This new star was detected by NASA’s telescope, the Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey (TESS). Normally, this telescope looks for exoplanets by watching for the periodic dimming of a star’s light as a planet passes in front of it. This is called the transit method.
Due to the large amount of data that TESS collects, the team asks for help from citizen scientists by uploading data onto a website called Planet Hunters TESS. Anyone who is interested can go onto the website and help analyze the data to find planets that the NASA team may have missed!
When citizen scientists looked at the data from a star called HD74423, they noticed strange patterns in the amount of light measured. It did not look like the other stars with exoplanets orbiting them. But, stars can also have fluctuations in their light caused by another nearby star.
A team of scientists took a closer look at HD74423 and found that it was indeed a two-star system, called a binary system. But this was no ordinary binary system. The second star is much smaller, called a red dwarf. The star has gravity that pulls on HD74423, and orbits around it every two days. Think of it like our moon pulling the tides, but super fast!
The pull of the red dwarf star has caused HD74423 to stretch out into a teardrop shape. This makes for a weird pulsing pattern in its light, which the team of research scientists matched with the orbit of the red dwarf. The research team describes the star as “the prototype of a new class of obliquely pulsating stars…” and are excited to continue to learn more.
Interested in more space stories like this one? Catch a show in LSC’s Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, the biggest planetarium in America!
(Image via: Gabriel Pérez Díaz (IAC)