Scientists have discovered a pulsating white dwarf in a double star system, which they say holds import clues on how our Sun evolved and will eventually die. The discovery by scientists at the University of Sheffield in the UK means the team can see how binary evolution has affected the internal structure of a white dwarf star in detail for the first time.
A double star system, is made up of two stars orbiting each other and periodically passing in front of each other as seen from the Earth. This particular white dwarf could provide key insights into the structure, evolution and death of these stars for the first time.
Most white dwarfs are thought to be made primarily of carbon and oxygen, but this particular white dwarf is made mostly of helium. The researchers think this is a result of its binary companion cutting off its evolution early, before it got a chance to fuse the helium into carbon and oxygen.
“Determining what a white dwarf is made of is not straightforward because these objects have about half of the mass of the Sun, packed into something about the size of the Earth,” said Steven Parsons, from the University of Sheffield. “This pulsating white dwarf we discovered is extremely important since we can use the binary motion and the eclipse to independently measure the mass and radius of this white dwarf, which helps us determine what it is made of,” Parsons said.