New discovery of a short-period X-ray binary system

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/ Hubble Collaboration.

A New Look at a Mysterious Space Duo

Scientists are always exploring the sky. They use advanced tools to study stars and planets. One such tool is the Hubble Space Telescope. Another is the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Using these tools, scientists have been studying a pair of stars that are very close together. This pair is called CXOU J121538.2+361921.

But that’s quite a mouthful, so let’s call it NGC 4214 X-1 for short. On July 13, they shared what they learned.

A Bit About Star Pairs

Star pairs are interesting. One star in the pair is a normal star or a small, dense star called a white dwarf. The other is a super dense star, like a neutron star or a black hole.

These pairs are called “X-ray binaries” because they give off X-rays. Some pairs have a big star, and some have a small star.

The ones with big stars are called high-mass X-ray binaries. NGC 4214 X-1 is a high-mass X-ray binary.

NGC 4214 X-1 is located in a galaxy called NGC 4214, about 9.8 million light years away from us. It is a special pair because it goes through a stage called an “eclipse” every 3.62 hours.

During this stage, one star moves in front of the other and blocks some of its light. But scientists still don’t know much about this pair.

So, a group of scientists led by Zikun Lin from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China, decided to take a closer look using the Hubble and Chandra telescopes.

Discoveries from the Hubble and Chandra Telescopes

Lin and his team used data from the telescopes to study NGC 4214 X-1. They found that the pair is still active and goes through an eclipse regularly.

They also found that the eclipse lasts about 0.57 hours, or about 34 minutes. From these observations, they figured out that the star pair has a certain mass ratio, which supports the idea that this is a high-mass X-ray binary.

The scientists also measured the density of the normal star in the pair. They found that it is quite dense, which suggests that it is a special kind of star called a Wolf-Rayet star or a star that has lost its outer layer of hydrogen.

More Discoveries from the Hubble Telescope

Lin’s team also used the Hubble telescope to see NGC 4214 X-1 in visible light. They found that there are actually two sources of light near the pair.

One source is blue and very hot, which supports the idea that the normal star is a Wolf-Rayet star. The other source is red and not as hot. This could be a disk of dust and gas surrounding the pair of stars.

In conclusion, the study from Lin’s team has provided more information about the NGC 4214 X-1 pair.

These findings help us understand how such pairs of stars behave and evolve. They are a reminder of the vast and mysterious universe that lies beyond our own planet.

The study was published in arXiv.

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