Eclipsing binary star systems are relatively common in our Universe. To the casual observer, these systems look like a single star, but are actually composed of two stars orbiting closely together. The study of these systems offers astronomers an opportunity to directly measure the fundamental properties (i.e. the masses and radii) of these systems respective stellar components.
Recently, a team of Brazilian astronomers observed a rare sight in the Milky Way – an eclipsing binary composed of a white dwarf and a low-mass brown dwarf. Even more unusual was the fact that the white dwarf’s life cycle appeared to have been prematurely cut short by its brown dwarf companion, which caused its early death by slowly siphoning off material and “starving” it to death.
The study which detailed their findings, titled HS 2231+2441: an HW Vir system composed by a low-mass white dwarf and a brown dwarf, was recently published the MNRAS. The team was led by Leonardo Andrade de Almeida, a postdoctoral fellow from the University of São Paolo’s Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics, and Atmospheric Sciences (IAG-USP), along with members from the National Institute for Space Research (MCTIC), and the State University of Feira de Santana.
For the sake of their study, the team conducted observations of a binary star system between 2005 and 2013 using the Pico dos Dias Observatory in Brazil.
Pico dos Dias Observatory located in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais 37 kilometers (23 mi) from the city of Itajubá. altitude 1,864 m (6,115 ft)
This data was then combined with information from the William Herschel Telescope, which is located in the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos on the island of La Palma. This system, known as of HS 2231+2441, consists of a white dwarf star and a brown dwarf companion.
ING 4 meter William Herschel Telescope at Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma in the Canary Islands, 2,396 m (7,861 ft)
Roque de los Muchachos Observatory is an astronomical observatory located in the municipality of Garafía on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, at an altitude of 2,396 m (7,861 ft)
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