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December 17 2012

White Dwarfs Can Mimic Black Holes, Astronomers Claim

According to an international team of astronomers, bright X-ray flares in nearby galaxies, once assumed to indicate the presence of black holes, can in fact be produced by white dwarf stars.

A short-lived X-ray flare, labeled XRF111111 and MAXI J0158-744, was detected in 2011 with the Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI) mission on the International Space Station.

Using optical telescopes in South Africa and Chile, the astronomers showed that MAXI J0158-744 was located in the Small Magellanic Cloud. The flare was so luminous that astronomers initially thought it was likely to be a black hole producing X-rays but further study by the team revealed that its X-ray temperature was so low that it had to be a white dwarf instead.

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