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Bradford Robotic Telescope finds a 'death star'

Published: Tue 5 Aug 2014

The University of Bradford's robotic telescope has been used in the discovery of a potential 'death star' in space.

Telescope The Bradford Robotic Telescope is a collection of telescopes and other instruments on Mount Teide, Tenerife. Whilst using the equipment Dr Denisenko of the Sternberg Astronomical Institute of Moscow State University discovered the 'death star' earlier this summer, many millions of miles from earth.

This is the first time the telescope has spotted an elusive 'death star', normally called a cataclysmic variable star. The star is in the process of dying and although this is not a rare occurrence, it is not commonplace for astronomers to find them.

The star was noticed by Dr Denisenko as it suddenly brightened in the process of devouring matter from an adjacent star. Astronomers from Moscow State University verified it was a white dwarf, and its behaviour classed it as a 'cataclysmic variable' as it may eventual explode, destroying everything around it.

The University of Bradford's Robotic Telescope Director Dr John Baruch explains, "Our telescope discovered a dying star. It would have once been the size of the sun, but has collapsed to the size of the earth yet remains just as heavy.  

"The Bradford Robotic Telescope is particularly good for finding such stars and this is a special discovery because it appears to be in the middle of a group of stars that have been shown to have planets, and some might have life on them.

"This star is on the fast track to becoming a gigantic cosmic explosion called a supernova, and the astronomy community will now invest quite a lot of telescope time to try and determine when this star is likely to explode. When it does it could be visible from Earth during the day, but it is far enough away not to endanger us."

Dr Baruch is working with Dr Denisenko to get more information about this new find and if it is likely to explode in the near future, which will help the astronomy community better understand how our Sun will behave when it too becomes a white dwarf in the very distant future. 

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