An astrophysicist and his team have discovered two detached, eclipsing double white dwarf binaries with orbital periods of 40 and 46 minutes, respectively. White dwarfs are the remnants of sun-like stars, many of which are found in pairs, or binaries. However, only a handful of white dwarf binaries are known with orbital periods less than one hour in the Milky Way--a galaxy made up of 200 billion stars. The team discovered the two white dwarf binaries using the MMT 6.5-meter telescope, a joint facility of the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Arizona. Observations at the Apache Point Observatory 3.5-meter telescope revealed that one of the binaries is eclipsing. It's only the seventh known eclipsing white dwarf binary. What occurs when the white dwarfs make contact continues to be a mystery. One possibility is an explosion--a phenomenon known as a supernova. The astrophysicist from this study predicts these two stars will come together and create an “exotic star” known as R Coronae Borealis.
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