News of the WeekAstrophysics

Stellar Pair Whirls in a 5-Minute Dash

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Science  15 Mar 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5562, pp. 1997
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5562.1997

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European astronomers have identified what they believe is the tightest pair of stars yet seen: two white dwarfs that dash around each other every 5 minutes. If confirmed, the whirling dervishes are revolving twice as fast as the previous closest pair. Moreover, say astronomers, the binary is one of the most promising targets for detection of gravitational waves: eerie ripples in space-time that a future orbiting observatory will chase.