While in India, ISRO’S successfully launched 7 satellites, NASA made strides far beyond. NASA’s Kepler and Swift missions have discovered a batch of 18 stars that spins so hard that the shape gets flattened, “squashed into pumpkin-like shapes”. Astronomers at NASA think this is the result of binary systems where two sun-like stars merge,  as per NASA’s official site.

Steve Howell, a senior research scientist at NASA‘s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, and leader of the team said: “These 18 stars rotate in just a few days on average, while the sun takes nearly a month. The rapid rotation amplifies the same kind of activity we see on the sun, such as sunspots and solar flares, and essentially sends it into overdrive.”

The 18 pumpkins stars that are of varied sizes produce X-Rays more than 100 times the peak levels of the sun ni our solar system. This is due to the fact that the pumpkin stars makes its rotation in a few days whereas our sun takes a whole year to complete the same rotation.

The most intense pumpkin star among the batch is the KSw 71, that is not just ten times larger than our sun but produces X-ray emission 4,000 times greater than what the Sun produces. The pumpkin stars were discovered as a part of the agency’s Kepler and Swift missions. In their observation, the pumpkin stars also amplify what is happening on the Sun, such as the existence of sunspots and solar flares.

NASA Pumpkin Sun
NASA discovers a batch of ‘Pumpkin’ Suns that are bigger and better than our Sun. Image source

Pumpkin stars are rare. The team thinks there are 160 more such pumpkin stars out there and are hoping to find them. They found the sun through an X-ray survey of the original Kepler field view, which is a patch in the sky comprising parts of the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. Kepler had been regularly keeping track of over 150,000 stars in this region for four years. “A side benefit of the Kepler mission is that its initial field of view is now one of the best-studied parts of the sky,” said Padi Boyd, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, designer of the Swift survey. “Our group was looking for variable X-ray sources with optical counterparts seen by Kepler, especially active galaxies, where a central black hole drives the emissions,” she explained. Another team member Krista Lynne Smith, a graduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park who led the analysis of Swift data. “Many of these sources have never been observed before in X-rays or ultraviolet light.”

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