Astronomers have discovered that stars not only emit their own light but also reflect it



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The source of this conclusion was a new study of twin stars located in a spiral orbit, each reflecting a small amount of light from the other. The main object of study of astronomers was Spica – a two-star system that is about 250 light-years away in the constellation of Virgo and rotate relative to each other with a period of about four days. The results of the scientists published in the journal Astronomy of nature.

During the work and observations, a team of astronomers at the University of New South Wales in Australia found that the polarization of light or the orientation of their wave varies depending on the orbit of two stars. Light that propagates directly is not polarized and oscillates in several planes at the same time. When it is reflected from a non-metallic surface, it becomes polarized and oscillates only in one plane. In the course of observing the polarized light emanating from a double star, the experts recorded the reflection, then used computer models to clarify the data.

"We were able to determine that the magnitude of the polarization we observed was exactly the same as predicted by the model of reflected light. Our simulation showed that the stars, in fact, reflect the light quite weakly. For example, the sun reflects less than 0.1% of incident light. However, for warmer stars, as components of a Spik star, with temperatures ranging from 20 to 25 thousand Kelvin, that number increases to a few percent. But the total amount of reflected light emanating from this system is still very small, "says physicist Jeremy Bailey of the University of New South Wales.

According to the researchers, the total amount of light reflected is only a few percent of the incident light, but can be easily recognized because it is extremely polarized. As part of the study, scientists have developed their own high-precision polarimeters, thus adding a new tool to the existing set of methods for detecting binary stars. Thus, the orbits of stars in a binary system are located very close to each other and therefore it is impossible to separate them optically. However, they will still reflect the light of each other, so it is through polarization that one can learn that the system is binary.

In addition, the new method can help you learn some details about double star systems. For example, the polarization of the Spica system showed that it moves clockwise, confirming the previous results. In addition, as Bailey noted, the method can be used to determine the mass of binary stars.

However, the method will not be so useful in studying single stars because they are, as a rule, rarely located close enough to another light source. Any light that they reflect comes from far away, simply is not enough to detect and use. However, most stars (about 85%) have double satellites: astronomers believe that most, if not all, stars are born in pairs, but some lose twins over time. This means that studying double pairs can really be very important for the study of stars in general. A team of scientists will apply and test their method on other double stars.

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