Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes have discovered that protostellar object LRLL 54361 unleashes a burst of light every 25 to 34 days. Astronomers think the flashes occur when two young stars get close to each other in their orbits. Dust and gas gets pulled from a surrounding disk as the stars near each other and some of this material may crash into one or both of the stars causing the flash of light. The phenomenon is known as pulsed accretion. NASA says in a release
that this is the first time it has been observed in such a young system. An an artist's impression of LRLL 54361 is pictured above.
James Muzerolle of the Space Telescope Science Institute published a paper
about LRLL 54361's mysterious flashes in the journal Nature
. Muzerolle says, "This protostar has such large brightness variations with a precise period that it is very difficult to explain."
The following video of the strobe-like flashses from LRLL 54361 was created using a sequence of Hubble images. Take a look:
Image: NASA, ESA, and R. Hurt (Caltech/Spitzer Science Center)