Scientists have discovered a two-faced star, which is in the midst of an elemental shift. One half of the star is made of helium, the other half of hydrogen. For the first time, scientists can observe this process.
It is a so-called white dwarf. It’s a star that’s nearly burnt out and collapsing, so to speak. As a result, the star shrinks sharply, but it takes on enormous density and becomes extremely hot. Our own sun will also become a white dwarf in about 5 billion years.
The star was named Janus by astronomers, after the two-faced Roman god. Janus is the god of beginnings and endings in Roman mythology. The month of January is derived from its name.
A team from the prestigious American university Caltech searched for the “two-headed” star. “The surface of this star changes completely from side to side,” Ilaria Caiazzo, study leader, explains in the scientific journal Nature.
“All who see the images are amazed”
Scientists can’t yet explain why the star appears to have two faces. When a star becomes a white dwarf, the heavier elements sink into the core.
Hydrogen is the lightest element known to us. It should therefore float to the surface in its entirety. Nor should it “share” the star with helium, as is the case with Janus.
“Everyone we show the footage to is amazed,” Caiazzo says. One possible explanation from the research team is that a rare white dwarf ‘evolution’ is underway. It could also be related to a magnetic field that is not fully balanced.
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