White dwarf pair doomed to catastrophic stellar explosion

February 11, 2015 10:36 PM

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White dwarf pair doomed to catastrophic stellar explosion

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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