Pair of White Dwarfs to Collide, Create New Star

Apr 7, 2011; 2:53 AM ET

Astronomers at Harvard University have recently announced the discovery of a pair of white dwarfs that are orbiting each other a mere 140,000 miles apart, which is less than the distance between the Earth and the moon. These stars orbit each other once every 39 minutes.

As if these factors were not cool enough, the astronomers have discovered that the distance between these white dwarfs is shrinking. Thus, in a few million years, they will collide. When this happens, the theory is that they will merge and create a single star.

When some white dwarfs collide, they explode as a supernova. However, to explode, the two combined have to weigh 40 percent more than our sun. This white dwarf pair isn't heavy enough to go supernova. Instead, the merged remnant will begin fusing helium and shine like a normal star. Thus, we will witness starlight reborn.

This newly identified binary star (which is designated as SDSS J010657.39-100003.3) is located about 7,800 light-years away in the constellation Cetus.

"These stars have already lived a full life. When they merge, they'll essentially be 'reborn' and enjoy a second life," said Smithsonian astronomer Mukremin Kilic.
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