Astronomers Release First Ever Real Photo of Two Stars Destroying Each Other

The dramatic end of a binary star can be a stunning but a violent thing. A binary system called ‘R Aquarii’. A red giant releasing its outer layer in space and it is being avariciously cannibalised by its fellow star, a much smaller, denser white dwarf. This is happening just 650 light-years from Earth – practically out neighbourhood in astronomical terms, which is why astronomers have a keen interest in the event.



Artist's illustration of a closer view

But this new view(below) of the interaction – captured in near-infrared by the SPHERE planet-hunting tool on the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope – provides an unbelievably detailed new glance of the action. What's happening in the image is very violent. The red giant is what is called as a Mira variable star, a star at the very end of its life. These type of stars have already blown off at least half their material out in the space, and as they pulse, they extent to a brightness 1,000 times that of the Sun.





You can download full-size and wallpaper-size versions of the photo here, and read the paper on it in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
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