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Epsilon Aurigae has baffled astronomers since the 1800's, but new images are providing insight into this very unusual eclipsing binary star. While eclipsing binary stars aren't unique in themselves, the way this star fades and then regains its brightness is inimitable and has not been fully understood, even after over 175 years of study. One theory has been that a large opaque disk seen nearly edge-on eclipses the primary star. The new images from an instrument developed at the University of Michigan appear to confirm that theory. "It kind of blows my mind that we could capture this," said John Monnier from U-M. "There's no other system like this known. On top of that, it seems to be in a rare phase of stellar life. And it happens to be so close to us. It's extremely fortuitous."
Epsilon Aurigae has a two-year-long eclipse that occurs every 27 years. The current eclipse started in August 2009 and amateur and professional astronomers have taken this opportunity to train as many telescopes on the event as possible.
Monnier led the development of the Michigan Infra-Red Combiner (MIRC) instrument, which uses interferometry to combine the light entering four telescopes at the CHARA array at Georgia State University and amplify it so that it seems to be coming through a device 100 times larger than the Hubble Space Telescope. MIRC allowed astronomers to "see" the eclipsing object for the first time.
Originally posted by predator0187
reply to post by muzzleflash
Good explanation!! the only thing that doesn't fit for me would be why would it eclipse for so long. If it was that much closer it have to be tiny to eclipse. I just think something closer wouldn't take so long to eclipse the star. I don't know just my opinion.
[edit on 7-4-2010 by predator0187]
Originally posted by eightfold
It's clearly a giant disc alien ship!
Asteroid cloud? Or it could be the back of a giant turtle?
I had a look at how this interferometry stuff works - wiki is here... and is well worth reading, those telescopes are very clever bits of gear.
[edit on 7-4-2010 by eightfold]