White dwarf pair doomed to catastrophic stellar explosion

February 11, 2015 10:36 PM

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White dwarfs are dead stars that are slowly cooling, growing denser and denser as they shrink and dim. In this instance, there are two white dwarfs -- and they're caught in a death spiral of sorts, orbiting each other once every four hours.

The two circling white dwarfs of interest are partially hidden by swaths of gas and star dust called a planetary nebula -- the materials shed from the outer layers of the decaying dwarfs, the stars no longer able to generate the temperature necessary to power stellar fusion.

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