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|Iota Orionis. Credit: Image by Danielle Futselaar|
“The variations look strikingly similar to an electrocardiogram showing the sinus rhythms of the heart, and are known as heartbeat systems,” said Herbert Pablo, the project’s principal investigator, a post-doctoral researcher at Université de Montréal and member of the Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec (CRAQ).
This unusual variation is the result of the interaction of two stars in a highly elliptical 30-day orbit around each other.
A shaking star is like an open book
“The intense gravitational force between the stars as they move closer together triggers quakes in the star, allowing us to probe the star’s inner workings, just as we do for the Earth’s interior during Earthquakes,” said Pablo.
The phenomenon of quakes is very rare in massive stars in general and this is the first time induced quakes have ever been seen in a star this massive, let alone one whose mass and radius are known. These unprecedented quakes have also led to the first real clues to how such stars will evolve.