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A Self-Lensing Binary Star System

2 May 2014, 22:00 UTC
A Self-Lensing Binary Star System
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Gravitational lensing is a prediction from Einstein’s general theory of relativity. It states that gravity can bend light and, consequently, massive foreground objects can distort and magnify the light from background sources. A. Maeder (1973) predicted that for edge-on binary star systems in which one star is a compact object (i.e. a white dwarf, neutron star or black hole), the gravity of the compact object can repeatedly magnify the light of its companion star each time the compact object is observed to pass in front of its companion star. Using data of high photometric precision from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, E. Krusel & E. Agol (2014) report on the detection of such a “self-lensing” system in a paper published in the April 18 issue of the journal Science.This is the first detection of a “self-lensing” system. Dubbed KOI-3278, the system consists of a Sun-like star and a white dwarf - the compact object. The white dwarf crosses in front of its companion Sun-like star once every 88.18 days. Each time it does so, the white dwarf’s gravity acts as a magnifying glass and slightly boosts the brightness of its companion star. The brightness boost created by such a “self-lensing” system ...

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