MARK GARLICK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MARK GARLICK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Cataclysmic variable binary star. Artwork of the surface of an imaginary planet in orbit around a cataclysmic variable binary star system. The two stars are a red dwarf (lower centre) and a white dwarf (upper centre). An accretion disc of matter from the red dwarf can be seen around the white dwarf. At the point where the trail of material meets the disc is a hot spot of compressed glowing gas. Systems such as this produce novae, outbursts which suddenly increase the apparent brightness of the star many times. These occur as some gas in the disc explodes on the surface of the white dwarf. The stars are not affected, but nearby planets would almost certainly be sterile.
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