Amateur Astronomers Spot One in a Billion Star

Gaia Satellite Used To Find Rare Star

It’s rare for amateur astronomers to find something substantial, unless of course they have the tools for it. A tool like, say, the Gaia satellite at the European Space Agency. That same satellite noticed something interesting back in August of 2014. Over the course of one single day, a star became five times brighter, noticeable enough to be picked up by the satellite. From there, researchers, along with some amateur astronomers, took time to study the satellite’s findings, and were shocked at what they discovered. They had discovered a rarity, a one in a billion star. The one in a billion star was not only an astonishing find for the astronomers, but an exciting discovery that can teach scientists more about stars and how they work.

The One in a Billion Star is actually two stars

What made this star so astonishing and so rare? Well, this one in a billion star, which has been named Gaia14aae, is actually a two-star system. One of these stars is a white dwarf. The other is its companion star. The white dwarf of this combination one in a billion star is actually stealing gas from the companion star. In a sense, the white dwarf is eating the other star, which is larger than it. The size difference is actually quite substantial; the white dwarf is similar in size to Earth; the companion star is 125 times the size of our sun!

Because of this size difference, there was plenty of gas in the companion star for the white dwarf to essentially cannibalize it. This is what caused the satellite to notice the one in a billion star – eating its companion is what caused the white dwarf to become so much brighter. It has also made the white dwarf so dense that a mere teaspoon of its material would weigh as much as your average elephant. This has turned the two stars into a binary system, combining into a one in a billion star.

Researchers Can Use This Star To Learn More

Researchers are extremely excited at what this one in a billion star has to offer them. It allows them to understand other bright explosions in the universe, and their bizarre codependency means that researchers can measure their sizes and masses with greater accuracy. It’s another victory for researchers using the Gaia satellite.


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