Kepler Telescope Photographs Passel of 'Pumpkin' Stars In Time for Halloween

Oct 31, 2016 08:55 AM EDT

Scientists at NASA are having an intergalactic Halloween as they revealed an illustration of a 'pumpkin star', a type of star that is believed to be the result of merging binary stars. Pumpkin stars spin rapidly causing it to look like a pumpkin with darker poles and equator.

With the data from NASA's Kepler Telescope and Swift mission, astronomers identify rapidly spinning stars with high X-ray emissions at 100 times more than the Sun's peak emission. Due to rapid spinning, the stars' shape appears to be that of a pumpkin.

Experts believe that the origin of this type of rapidly spinning stars is the merging of binary stars. "These 18 stars rotate in just a few days on average, while the sun takes nearly a month," Steve Howell, senior research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center and study team leader said in a press release. "The rapid rotation amplifies the same kind of activity we see on the sun, such as sunspots and solar flares, and essentially sends it into overdrive," Howell added.

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There is a number of rapidly spinning stars identified but one of the most interesting finds is KSw star, a giant body that is 10 times bigger that the mass of the Sun. This star takes 5.5 days to rotate and produces 4,000 times more X-ray emissions.

Because of the star's shape and color, it is called a pumpkin star; the star is more massive and with brighter and redder look compares to Earth's sun. The pumpkin monicker is also due to the stars more distinct and brighter poles. The star also has features that make the equator darker.

The pumpkin star is within the Kepler's field of view, one of the most studied part of the sky in the constellation Cygnus and Lyra. The data being studied is part of Kepler's successful K2 mission that is responsible for identifying more than 2,300 exoplanets.

"A side benefit of the Kepler mission is that its initial field of view is now one of the best-studied parts of the sky," Padi Boyd, team member and researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said in a statement.

The Swift mission helped Kepler telescope to identify the Pumpkin star using its X-ray and ultraviolet telescopes.


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