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An outburst of stellar knowledge.

An outburst of stellar knowledge

Alerted by ground-based astronomers who viewed the outburst in visible light, researchers trained the Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope on the binary star Z-Camelopardalis just as one of the star's two components -- a red giant -- erupted, hurling mass from its interior. The other member of this gravitational duo, a small white dwarf, sucks surface mass from the red giant in a manner resembling the theoretical model of matter falling into a black hole, says Hopkins astronomer Knox S. Long.

Because this system and similar binaries, known as cataclysmic variables, occur in our own galaxy, scientists have a better chance of deciphering how similar but larger-scale gravitational processes may occur in distant quasars and Seyfert galaxies, he adds. Long notes that a broadening of the normally sharp ultraviolet spectral lines offers clues to the nature of the violent outburst at Z-Cam.
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Title Annotation:component of binary star Z-Camelopardalis erupts
Author:Cowen, Ron
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 5, 1991
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