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Does a Famous Nova Have a "Suicide Pact"?

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Does a Famous Nova Have a "Suicide Pact"?

What one research team calls "the most famous recurrent nova in the galaxy" might whittle itself to nothing in as little as 100,000 years.

T Pyxidis is a pairing of two stars in a dysfunctional relationship. They orbit each other so closely that one of them, a white dwarf, is able to suck matter off of its companion, a red dwarf. About every 20 years — six times since 1890 — the pressure of the stolen mass builds up until the white dwarf suffers a thermonuclear meltdown and erupts in a nova, spewing the accumulated matter off into space and briefly becoming some 2,500 times brighter.

Most astronomers believe that white dwarfs in such binary systems continue to prey off their gravitationally weaker companions until they fatten up to 1.4 solar masses, at which point they explode as supernovae.

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