NASA Telescopes Discover Infant Star

By Hilda Scott email: , Feb 08, 2013 10:47 AM EST

NASA announced that space telescopes, Spitzer and Hubble have uncovered an infant star that has strobe light like behavior. Astronomers believe that that the light flashes occur due to interactions between two newly formed stars, or protostars that are bound to each other by gravitation. It was observed that the object, which they have labeled LRLL 54361, unleashes a powerful burst of light, every 25.34 days.

Scientists said that it is the most powerful light flash that they have ever seen among two young astral objects. New binary stars, or stars that orbit around a common center of mass, are formed when large amounts of gas and dust are rapidly pulled together.

In theory, according to the astronomers when material is dumped suddenly onto the growing stars and as the stars get close to each other in their orbits, a blast of radiation is unleashed. This phenomenon is known as "pulsed accretion," usually witnessed in later stages of star birth. Astronomers have never before witnessed the type of intensity and regularity as seen in this new star system.

"This protostar has such large brightness variations with a precise period that it is very difficult to explain," said James Muzerolle of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope discovered LRLL 54361 inside the star-forming region IC 348, located 950 light-years from Earth. The statistical analysis of data collected estimates that the two protostars are no more than a few hundred thousand years old. The seven years of collected infrared data from the Spitzer telescope revealed that the light bursts were occurring every 25.34 days.

To reveal details about the astral structure that around LRLL 54361 and to confirm Spitzer's observations, astronomers used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble captured multiple images of the light pulses and revealed an optical illusion described as a "light echo", in which light moves away from the center of the star system.

Muzerolle's team will use other facilities including the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Telescope to continue monitoring LRLL 54361. They plan to get linear information about the binary star and its orbit.

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