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 (upper right) and a dense, strongly magnetic white dwarf star (lower left). Gas from the M-class star is drawn towards the white dwarf. Because the gas is charged, as it approaches the white dwarf it follows the star's magnetic field lines (blue) and plunges into the magnetic pole. This causes intermittent, powerful X-ray emissions. Because material enters the pole directly without forming a spiral accretion disc, this is classed as a polar CV system.
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