RUSSELL KIGHTLEY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY RUSSELL KIGHTLEY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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Variable stars. Artwork of a magnetic cataclysmic variable (CV) binary system containing an M- class dwarf star (left) and a dense, strongly magnetic white dwarf star (upper right). Gas from the M-class star spirals towards the white dwarf, forming an orbiting disc (accretion disc, red). Because the gas is charged, as it approaches the white dwarf it follows the star's magnetic field lines and plunges into the magnetic poles (blue/white). This causes intermittent, powerful X-ray emissions. An accretion disc is found only in the intermediate polar class of CV; polar CVs are more magnetic, preventing the disc from forming.
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