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Kepler Spots 'Heartbeat' Stars -- Here's What You Need to Know

Oct 25, 2016 08:48 AM EDT
NASA Announces Discovery Of New Planet Kepler-22b
The NASA Kepler telescope detected a group of heartbeat stars, a type of binary star systems that orbits around each other.
(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

NASA's Kepler telescope is responsible for detecting many different celestial bodies that provide a ton of scientific knowledge to scientists and experts worldwide. One of the most recent discoveries of the Kepler telescope is interesting 'heartbeat' stars.

Recently, the Kepler telescope discovered a group of heartbeat stars considered as unusual astronomical objects. Heartbeat stars are binary stars composed of two stars orbiting around each other. By looking at the heartbeat stars' brightness over time, it resembles an electrocardiogram thus the moniker, heartbeat stars.

These star systems interest scientists because they are elongated in nature in within their elliptical orbits. Their form makes them a suitable area for studying the gravitational effects of the stars to each other. One intriguing this is that the orbit changes as the star move around each other. Sometimes they orbit close to each other and sometimes they orbit 10 times farther. The gravitation pull causes an "ellipsoidal" shape that makes their light variable.

On Earth, it is almost similar to tidal force that causes waves. Heartbeat stars can help scientists fully explore the effects of these kinds of tidal force in many different kinds of stars in the universe.

In heartbeat stars, the tidal force causes vibrations in the ring that fluctuate as the stars move or orbit around each other. "You can think about the stars as bells, and once every orbital revolution, when the stars reach their closest approach, it's as if they hit each other with a hammer," Avi Shporer, NASA Sagan postdoctoral fellow at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and lead author of a study of heartbeat stars said in a statement. "One or both stars vibrate throughout their orbits, and when they get nearer to each other, it's as though they are ringing very loudly," Shporer added.

Kepler has already discovered a number of heartbeat stars in the last few years. However, NASA scientists believe that in order to categorize the heartbeat stars into different types, more studies need to be conducted that are entirely focused on the intriguing type of binary star system.


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