Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astronomers find 'snooker' star system

Date:
November 10, 2010
Source:
University of Warwick
Summary:
Astronomers have discovered an unusual star system which looks like, and may even once have behaved like, a game of snooker.

NN Serpentis - Snooker Star System.
Credit: Image owned by the University of Warwick - by Mark A. Garlick

Astronomers at The University of Warwick and the University of Sheffield have helped discover an unusual star system which looks like, and may even once have behaved like, a game of snooker.

The University of Warwick and Sheffield astronomers played a key role in an international team that used two decades of observations from many telescopes around the world. The UK astronomers helped discover this "snooker like" star system through observations and analysis of data from an astronomical camera known as ULTRACAM designed by the British researchers on the team.

They looked at a binary star system called NN Serpentis which is 1670 light years away from Earth. NN Serpentis is actually a binary star system consisting of two stars, a red dwarf and a white dwarf, which orbit each other in an incredibly close, tight orbit. By lucky chance Earth sits in the same plane as this binary star system, so we can we can see the larger red dwarf eclipse the white dwarf every 3 hours and 7 minutes.

It was already thought that there may be at least one planet orbiting these two stars. However the University Warwick and Sheffield astronomers were able to use these incredibly frequent eclipses to spot a pattern of small but significant irregularities in the orbit of stars and were able to help demonstrate that that pattern must be due to the presence and gravitational influence of two massive gas giant planets. The more massive gas giant is about 6 times the mass of Jupiter and orbits the binary star every 15.5 years, the other orbits every 7.75 years and is about 1.6 times the mass of Jupiter.

Given the overall shape of the system, and how that this star system came to exist, it was hard for the British members of the research team not to think of the game of snooker.

One of the UK researchers on the project, Professor Tom Marsh from the University of Warwick's Department of Physics, said: "The two gas giants have different masses but they may actually be roughly the same size as each other, and in fact will also be roughly the same size as the red dwarf star they orbit. If they follow the patterns we see in our own star system of gas giants with a dominant yellow or blue colours, then it's hard to escape the image of this system as being like a giant snooker frame with a red ball, two coloured balls, and dwarf white cue ball."

This star system will also have seen dramatic changes in what is relatively recent times in astronomical terms the what is now the White Dwarf "cue ball" of the system may have suffered, and caused, violent changes to its own orbit and the orbit of all the planets and stars in the system.

Professor Vik Dhillon from the University of Sheffield, said: "If these planets were born along with their parent stars they would have had to survive a dramatic event a million years ago: when the original primary star bloated itself into a red giant, causing the secondary star to plunge down into the present very tight orbit, thereby casting off most of the original mass of the primary. Planetary orbits would have seen vast disturbances. Alternatively, the planets may have formed very recently from the cast off material. Either way, in relatively recent times in astronomical terms this system will have seen a vast shock to the orbits of the stars and planets, all initiated by what is now the white dwarf at the heart of the system."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Warwick. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. K. Beuermann, F. V. Hessman, S. Dreizler, T. R. Marsh, S. G. Parsons, D. E. Winget, G. F. Miller, M. R. Schreiber, W. Kley, V. S. Dhillon, S. P. Littlefair, C. M. Copperwheat, J. J. Hermes. Two planets orbiting the recently formed post-common envelope binary NN Serpentis. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 2010; 521: L60 DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201015472

Cite This Page:

University of Warwick. "Astronomers find 'snooker' star system." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101108191615.htm>.
University of Warwick. (2010, November 10). Astronomers find 'snooker' star system. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101108191615.htm
University of Warwick. "Astronomers find 'snooker' star system." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101108191615.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 20, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft makes a scheduled Easter Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station

Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station

AP (Apr. 20, 2014) Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The SpaceX company's cargo ship, Dragon, spent two days chasing the International Space Station following its launch from Cape Canaveral. (April 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) FOREO, a Swedish cosmetics company, says it wants to brighten the moon to lower electricity costs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) On it's second attempt this week, The Space X company launched Friday from Cape Canaveral to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins