Two Stars Fighting to the Death and It’s All on Camera

By Kehl Bayern / January 9, 2019

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Nothing like a little drama in your photography news feed, eh?

If you’re looking for Hollywood shenanigans, however, you’re going to be disappointed.

Because you won’t find these stars on a walk of fame, but instead in the night sky.

R Aquarii image from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) captured by the Very Large Telescope.

Pictures taken by the European Southern Observatory’s appropriately named Very Large Telescope of R Aquarii shows two stars ripping each other apart in startling detail.

Located 650 light years away from the Earth according to Popular Science, what you’re seeing is a red giant and a white dwarf orbiting around a common center and tearing each other apart in the process.

Popular Science reports that such binary star systems (much like the one inhabited by Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars) are actually quite common in the night sky. Four fifths of all stars are rumored to be paired in such a configuration.

Though common, few are as dramatic as these two in R Aquarii. Both stars are at the end of their life cycles and are destroying themselves and each other in the process.

The larger red dwarf is what is called a Mira star because it pulses as it becomes larger.

The white dwarf is a much more diminished star and is “feeding” off of the red dwarf per Popular Science’s report.

What makes this so cool, aside from the photography, is that we are getting a pretty good view of the action in terms of distance between the Earth and R Aquarii. Even though binary star systems are common, R Aquarii is one of the closest to the Earth that we can see.

While scientists know quite a bit about the life cycle of stars, it is a whole other thing to witness it in action. That’s part of what makes astro-photography such a treasure for humanity.


About the author

Kehl Bayern

Kehl Bayern is our staff news writer and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing. In terms of photography, he is interested in architecture and modern design. Kehl Bayern is also the author of science fiction thriller Animus Proxy. He is based in Boston, Massachusetts and studied politics at the University of Virginia and, later, Harvard University for graduate school. He spends much of his time traveling up and down the east coast of the United States. You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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