MARK GARLICK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MARK GARLICK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Intermediate polar binary star system. Artwork showing a type of cataclysmic variable star system known as an intermediate polar, or DQ Herculis, star. This system comprises a white dwarf (lower centre, white) in mutual orbit with a larger red dwarf (upper right). The strong gravitational field of the dense white dwarf star draws material (hot gas) from its larger companion. This forms an accretion disc (blue) around the white dwarf. The white dwarf has a strong magnetic field, however, and gas from the accretion disc is channelled towards its poles. Periodically, this hot gas erupts on the white dwarf's surface, making the star appear much brighter for a short time.
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