Binary system of white dwarfs with very short orbital periods discovered

It could be considered as the binary system of white eclipse dwarfs that orbit faster than ever before that was identified by the Kitt Peak National Observatory of the National Science Foundation, United States.

With an orbital period of just under seven minutes, this system could be the strongest source of gravitational waves detectable with LISA, a space observatory that will be launched a few years ago. According to scientists, the binary systems made by two white dwarfs are relatively common but, despite this, only very few of them with such narrow orbits have been identified to date. However, a new sky detection technique, implemented through the Kitt Peak National Observatory telescope, is changing this situation.

Each time the telescope detects a promising candidate, a new tool comes into play, the Electron Multiplying Demonstrator (KPED), which can safely identify the eclipsing binary systems. The latter are a type of binary star system in which, during rotation, one of the stars covers the other from our point of view, a phenomenon that is known in astronomy with the term “eclipse.”

With the binary systems of this kind it is then relatively easy to understand the duration of the orbital period: when the less bright star passes in front of the brighter one it blocks most of its light for a certain period of time. With this method the researchers discovered ZTF J1539 + 5027 (or J1539 for short), a binary eclipse system of white dwarfs that boasts the shortest orbital period among those identified to date: only 6.91 minutes.

It is thought that the entire system could enter a space equivalent to that of Saturn’s orbit around the Sun.
Astronomers also predict that the two white dwarfs will get closer and closer and will orbit faster and faster, differences that could be measurable even in few years. Further information will be provided by LISA, an observatory composed of several satellites in solar orbit specialized in the interception of gravitational waves, similar to LIGO, which will operate in space.

Steven Cooper

I was a humanities major at Strayer University before switching to mechanical engineering, graduating in 2017 and since entering an internship and full-time employment. I have always loved reading science magazines including New Scientist, Scientific American and All About Space, and consider myself fairly well educated on a range of fields. It was therefore a natural choice for me to join Capstory News as a volunteer contributor and editor.

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Steven Cooper