An exotic binary star system 380 light-years away has been identified as an elusive white dwarf pulsar.
Scientists from the South African Astronomical Observatory, have identified the star AR Scorpii (AR Sco) as the first white dwarf version of a pulsar — objects found in the 1960s and associated with very different objects called neutron stars.
The white dwarf pulsar has eluded astronomers for over half a century.
AR Sco lies in the constellation Scorpius, 380 light-years from Earth, a close neighbour in astronomical terms. The white dwarf in AR Sco is the size of Earth but 200,000 times more massive, and is in a 3.6 hour orbit with a cool star one third the mass of the Sun.
With an electromagnetic field 100 million times more powerful than Earth, and spinning on a period just shy of two minutes, AR Sco produces lighthouse-like beams of radiation and particles, which lash across the face of the cool star, a red dwarf.