Talk about living dangerously.
A white dwarf star nearly 15,000 light-years from Earth apparently whips around its companion black hole once every 28 minutes, a new study suggests. That means the two objects are likely separated by just 2.5 Earth-moon distances — the tightest such orbit ever observed around a black hole, study team members said.
“This white dwarf is so close to the black hole that material is being pulled away from the star and dumped onto a disk of matter around the black hole before falling in,” study lead author Arash Bahramian, of the University of Alberta in Canada and Michigan State University, said in a statement. “Luckily for this star, we don’t think it will follow this path into oblivion, but instead will stay in orbit.” [Images: Black Holes of the Universe]
But the black hole could still end up destroying the white dwarf, team members said.
“Eventually, so much matter may be pulled away from the white dwarf that it ends up only having the mass of a planet,” co-author Craig Heinke, an associate professor of physics at the University of Alberta, said in the same statement. “If it keeps losing mass, the white dwarf may completely evaporate.”