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Astrophysicist predicts white dwarfs to merge

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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