Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Astronomers show that low-mass stars in binary stars appear to behave like high-mass, evolved stars


Astronomers Steve Howell of the University of California, Riverside and Thomas E. Harrison and Heather Osborne of New Mexico State University have found from their observations of over a dozen mass-losing stars in ’cataclysmic variables’ that most of the secondary stars do not appear to be normal main sequence stars in terms of their apparent abundances. To various degrees, each star seems to have low to no carbon and other odd mixtures of elements such as sodium and calcium, the astronomers announced today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

An artist’s conception of a cataclysmic variable. Cataclysmic variables are binary stars consisting of a white dwarf primary and a lower mass secondary star.
(Artist: Mark Garlick,,

(A main sequence star is a star that is in its normal state, such as the sun. These stars have well-defined relations between luminosity, temperature, size and mass.)

"Cataclysmic variables are binary stars consisting of a white dwarf primary and a lower mass secondary star," explained Howell. A binary star system consists of two stars orbiting about their common center of mass and held together by their mutual gravitational attraction. A white dwarf is a star that has exhausted all its nuclear fuel and has collapsed to a very small size, about the size of the Earth.

Howell further explained that the high gravity of the white dwarf pulls matter off the lower-mass, but larger secondary star. This material often forms a disk around the white dwarf. The orbital periods of these binaries are short, typically ranging from approximately 12 hours to 80 minutes. "Cataclysmic variables are very small systems," he said. "The entire binary would completely fit inside our sun."

For their research, the three astronomers used telescopes to obtain spectral observations of mass-losing stars in cataclysmic variables. "Our findings suggest that the normal idea that ’main sequence’ rules apply to the mass-losing stars appears not to be the case," said Howell. "Furthermore, the observed abundance patterns are consistent with stellar material formed by a process called CNO or carbon-nitrogen-oxygen burning, which is only thought to occur in stars with masses greater than those of the mass-losing stars.

The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, was performed in the past two years using telescopes located at the Kitt Peak National Observatory, near Tucson, Ariz., and on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, using the NASA infrared telescope (IRTF) and the United Kingdom infrared telescope (UKIRT).

Additional contacts:
Steve Howell,
Thomas Harrison,

Iqbal Pittalwala | UC Riverside
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm
23.03.2018 | Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics

nachricht Drug or duplicate?
23.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Festkörperphysik IAF

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>