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White dwarf lashes red dwarf with mystery ray

28 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have discovered a new type of exotic binary star. In the system AR Scorpii a rapidly spinning white dwarf star powers electrons up to almost the speed of light. These high energy particles release blasts of radiation that lash the companion red dwarf star, and cause the entire system to pulse dramatically every 1.97 minutes with radiation ranging from the ultraviolet to radio.

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The Sun could release flares 1,000x greater than recorded

3 December 2015 Astronomy Now

A binary star known as KIC 9655129 observed by NASA’s Kepler space telescope is known to produce superflares, thousands of times more powerful than those ever recorded on the Sun. Research led by the University of Warwick suggests the underlying physics of KIC 9655129’s superflares and solar flares might be the same, supporting the idea that our Sun could also produce such phenomena.

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5,400mph winds hurtling around exoplanet

14 November 2015 Astronomy Now

Wind speeds of over 2 kilometres per second have been discovered flowing around planet outside of our solar system. The University of Warwick discovery is the first time that a weather system on an exoplanet has been directly measured and mapped. The wind speed recorded is 20x greater than the fastest ever known on Earth, where it would be seven times the speed of sound.

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Asteroid ripped apart to form star’s glowing ring system

11 November 2015 Astronomy Now

The remains of a fatal interaction between a dead star and its asteroid supper have been observed in detail for the first time. An international team of astronomers used the Very Large Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile and other observatories to study the shattered remains of an asteroid around a stellar remnant — a white dwarf.

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Dying white dwarf star suffers “irregular heartbeats”

27 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers at the University of Warwick analysing data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have discovered a unexpected anomaly in the ‘pulse’ of aging white dwarf star PG1149+057. In addition to the expected regular rhythm of pulsations, the researchers observed arrhythmic, massive outbursts, which significantly heated up the star’s surface for many hours.

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UK work-experience schoolboy discovers a new planet

10 June 2015 Astronomy Now

Tom Wagg, now aged 17, discovered a new planet orbiting a star 1000 light-years away in the constellation of Hydra. He was doing work-experience at Keele University two years ago when he spotted the body by finding a tiny dip in the light of its parent star as the planet passed in front of it.

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Exo-asteroid debris shows how water reached Earth

7 May 2015 Astronomy Now

New research strongly suggests that water delivery via asteroids or comets is likely taking place in many other planetary systems, adding further support to the possibility water can be delivered to Earth-like planets via such bodies to create a suitable environment for the formation of life.