Universe  ID: 11236

Flash In The Dark

A distant object suddenly bursts with light, then darkens. Space telescopes Spitzer and Hubble have watched this phenomenon repeat like clockwork every 25 days. The light appears to emanate from a protostar named LRLL 54361. It is not the first object to blink in this unusual way, but it is both the brightest and the most regular one ever observed. Astronomers think LRLL 54361 may actually consist of two newborn stars in a binary system. Drawn together by gravity, they circle around each other, kicking up nearby dust and gas. This material then slams back into the stars, causing a blast of radiation and—there!—a flash of bright light. If this theory holds true, LRLL 54361 will teach us more about how binary stars form. Watch the video to see its light flash at increased speed in a time-lapse sequence of images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

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Story Credits

Lead Writer:
Aviva H. Rutkin (USRA)

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Video and images courtesy of NASA, ESA, STScI/J. Muzerolle, NOAO/Caltech/E. Furlan, University of Arizona/Steward Observatory/K. Flaherty, Max Planck Institute for Astronomy/Z. Balog, University of Massachusetts, Amherst/R. Gutermuth
Illustration courtesy of Caltech/Spitzer Science Center/R. Hurt
Hubble photo courtesy of NASA

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