Space mystery: NASA's TESS satellite spots ‘peculiar’ new pulsating star type

The star has been observed to oscillate in a rhythmic pattern on only one side. This causes gravitational forces to distort the celestial body into a hitherto-unique teardrop shape.

Professor Don Kurtz from the University of Central Lancashire, co-author of the Nature Astronomy paper, said: “We’ve known theoretically that stars like this should exist since the 1980s.

“I’ve been looking for a star like this for nearly 40 years and now we have finally found one.”

Dubbed HD74423, the star is approximately 1.7 times the mass of the Sun and was spotted around 1,500 light years from Earth, close to the Milky Way’s outer edges.

The strange star was discovered using public data derived from NASA’s planet-hunting TESS satellite.

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Co-author Simon Murphy from the Sydney Institute for Astronomy said: “What first caught my attention was the fact it was a chemically peculiar star,” said at the University of Sydney in the statement.

“Stars like this are usually fairly rich with metals – but this is metal poor, making it a rare type of hot star.”

Stars including the Sun are known to oscillate at different rhythms and to different degrees.

Astronomers suspect this phenomena is caused by convection and magnetic field forces inside the star.

And the astronomers suspect this will only be the first of many such discoveries.

Saul Rappaport, a professor at MIT and co-author of the report said: “We expect to find many more hidden in the TESS data.”

The NASA TESS satellite was able to observe variations in the star’s brightness during this distortion.

The data was posted on the crowdsourcing website Planet Hunters TESS.

Citizen scientists on the site noticed that something strange was happening.

Often, fluctuations in a star’s light can be traced to a planet crossing across the face of that star.

This is the entire premise of the NASA TESS mission.

Such fluctuations, however, may also stem from stellar activity, as in the case of HD74423.

The scientists who picked up on the Planet Hunters’ interest found the strength of the pulsation fluctuates in sync with the orbit of the binary.

David Jones at the Institute of Astrophysics, another co-author added: “As the binary stars orbit each other, we see different parts of the pulsating start.

“Sometimes, we see the side that points towards the companion star, and sometimes we see the outer face.”

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