Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Strongest Source of Gravitational Waves?

Stellar tango. These tightly orbiting white dwarfs, doomed to collide, churn space with gravitational waves in this artist's illustration.

At the American Astronomical Society meeting now under way in Minneapolis, Tod Strohmayer (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center) reported on periodic X-ray pulsations from a source known as RX J0806.3+1527. The pulsations, found with the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, agree with earlier, visible-light observations indicating that the source is a pair of white-dwarf stars orbiting each other in a tight binary system. The two collapsed stars are separated by only 80,000 kilometers (50,000 miles, or one-fifth the Earth-Moon distance) and circle each other every 5.36 minutes. No known binary star has a shorter orbital period.

article in Sky and Telescope.

White Dwarfs in a Death Spiral in Science.

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