NASA’s Kepler spacecraft was designed to search out exoplanets by on the lookout for stars that dim as a planet crosses the star’s face. Fortuitously, the identical design makes it preferrred for recognizing different astronomical transients – objects that brighten or dim over time. A brand new search of Kepler archival information has uncovered an uncommon super-outburst from a beforehand unknown dwarf nova. The system brightened by an element of 1,600 over lower than a day earlier than slowly fading away.
The star system in query consists of a white dwarf star with a brown dwarf companion about one-tenth as large because the white dwarf. A white dwarf is the leftover core of an growing older Solar-like star and incorporates a couple of Solar’s price of fabric in a globe the dimensions of Earth. A brown dwarf is an object with a mass between 10 and 80 Jupiters that’s too small to bear nuclear fusion.
The brown dwarf circles the white dwarf star each 83 minutes at a distance of solely 250,000 miles (400,000 km) – in regards to the distance from Earth to the Moon. They’re so shut that the white dwarf’s robust gravity strips materials from the brown dwarf, sucking its essence away like a vampire. The stripped materials types a disk because it spirals towards the white dwarf (referred to as an accretion disk).
It was sheer probability that Kepler was wanting in the proper path when this technique underwent a super-outburst, brightening by greater than 1,000 occasions. Actually, Kepler was the one instrument that would have witnessed it, for the reason that system was too near the Solar from Earth’s standpoint on the time. Kepler’s speedy cadence of observations, taking information each 30 minutes, was essential for catching each element of the outburst.
The occasion remained hidden in Kepler’s archive till recognized by a staff led by Ryan Ridden-Harper of the House Telescope Science Institute (STScI), Baltimore, Maryland, and the Australian Nationwide College, Canberra, Australia. “In a way, we found this technique by chance. We weren’t particularly on the lookout for a super-outburst. We have been on the lookout for any form of transient,” mentioned Ridden-Harper.
Kepler captured your complete occasion, observing a gradual rise in brightness adopted by a speedy intensification. Whereas the sudden brightening is predicted by theories, the reason for the gradual begin stays a thriller. Customary theories of accretion disk physics don’t predict this phenomenon, which has subsequently been noticed in two different dwarf nova super-outbursts.
“These dwarf nova programs have been studied for many years, so recognizing one thing new is fairly difficult,” mentioned Ridden-Harper. “We see accretion disks throughout – from newly forming stars to supermassive black holes – so it’s essential to grasp them.”
Theories counsel that a super-outburst is triggered when the accretion disk reaches a tipping level. Because it accumulates materials, it grows in dimension till the periphery experiences gravitational resonance with the orbiting brown dwarf. This may set off a thermal instability, inflicting the disk to get superheated. Certainly, observations present that the disk’s temperature rises from about 5,000–10,000° F (2,700–5,300° C) in its regular state to a excessive of 17,000–21,000° F (9,700–11,700° C) on the peak of the super-outburst.
The sort of dwarf nova system is comparatively uncommon, with solely about 100 recognized. A person system might go for years or many years between outbursts, making it a problem to catch one within the act.
“The detection of this object raises hopes for detecting much more uncommon occasions hidden in Kepler information,” mentioned co-author Armin Remainder of STScI.
The staff plans to proceed mining Kepler information, in addition to information from one other exoplanet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite tv for pc (TESS) mission, looking for different transients.
“The continual observations by Kepler/K2, and now TESS, of those dynamic stellar programs permits us to check the earliest hours of the outburst, a time area that’s practically unattainable to achieve from ground-based observatories,” mentioned Peter Garnavich of the College of Notre Dame in Indiana.
This work was revealed within the October 21, 2019 difficulty of the Month-to-month Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Reference: “Discovery of a brand new WZ Sagittae-type cataclysmic variable within the Kepler/K2 information” by R Ridden-Harper, B E Tucker, P Garnavich, A Relaxation, S Margheim, E J Shaya, C Littlefield, G Barensten, C Hedges, M Gully-Santiago, 21 October 2019, Month-to-month Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.