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The flare star WX UMa becomes 15 times brighter in less than three minutes

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Posted June 17, 2013
A flare star. Credit: Casey Reed/NASA

A flare star. Credit: Casey Reed/NASA

Astrophysicists at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain) and the Byurakan Observatory (Armenia) have detected a star of low luminosity which within a matter of moments gave off a flare so strong that it became almost 15 times brighter. The star in question is the flare star WX UMa.

“We recorded a strong flare of the star WX UMa, which became almost 15 times brighter in a matter of 160 seconds,” explains to SINC the astrophysicist Vakhtang Tamazian, professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela. The finding has been published in the ‘Astrophysics’ journal.

This star is in the Ursa Major constellation, around 15.6 light years from the Earth, and it forms part of a binary system. Its companion shines almost 100 times brighter, except at times such as that observed, in which the WX UMa gives off its flares. This can happen several times a year, but not as strongly as that which was recorded in this instance.

Dr Tamazian and other researchers detected this exceptional brightness from the Byurakan Observatory in Armenia. “Furthermore, during this period of less than three minutes the star underwent an abrupt change from spectral type M to B; in other words, it went from a temperature of 2,800 kelvin (K) to six or seven times more than that.”

Based on their spectral absorption lines, stars are classified using letters. Type M stars have a surface temperature of between 2,000 and 3,700 K; Type B between 10,000 and 33,000 K.

WX UMa belongs to the limited group of “flare stars”, a class of variable stars which exhibit increases in brightness of up to 100 factors or more within a matter of seconds or minutes. These increases are sudden and irregular – practically random, in fact. They then return to their normal state within tens of minutes.

Read more at: Phys.org

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