An international team of astronomers today is reporting on a discovery of a star exploding inside another star. The discovery is helping astronomers learn more about the structure of a red giant star, how shock waves move through a star and revealing how one type of binary star system goes through the end stages of its life, the astronomers report.
Speaking at the National Astronomy Meeting in Leicester, U.K., the international team of 14 astronomers described what they saw as they monitored the explosion of RS Ophiuchi, a recurrent nova that lights up in the sky roughly every 20 years. RS Oph, as it is called, normally a very dim object in the sky was found to be visible to the unaided eye on Feb. 12, 2006 by Japanese amateur astronomers.
It was the fifth time in the last 108 years RS Oph exploded, and the first time it was viewed in unprecedented detail by an armada of space- and ground-based telescopes, said Sumner Starrfield, an ASU Regents professor of astronomy and a member of the international team monitoring the star system. Starrfield leads the U.S. portion of the effort. Among the telescopes and detectors trained on RS Oph were x-ray telescopes, an infrared telescope and a radio telescope.
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