Apparently, the entire universe is celebrating Halloween this year. The astronomers have spotted pumpkin stars using data from NASA’s Kepler and Swift missions. Particularly, what they’ve harvested is a passel of pumpkin stars, which are so named because of the shape they achieve due to their incredibly fast spin.
NASA monitored a huge patch of the sky for four years, particularly looking for changes in brightness due to exoplanets traveling in front of their host stars. Researchers used the X-ray and ultraviolet/optical telescopes aboard Swift and ran the Kepler-Swift Active Galaxies and Stars Survey (KSwAGS). What they ended up finding were what they looked for, surpassing their own expectations.
Those rare, aptly called pumpkin stars generate extreme X-ray emissions at more than 100 times the peak levels ever seen from the sun.
“These 18 stars rotate in just a few days on average, while the sun takes nearly a month,” said Steve Howell, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, and leader of the team. “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 most intense-rotating pumpkin star of this group is a K-type orange giant dubbed KSw 71, which is more than 10 times the sun’s size, and spins in just 5.5 days (4 times faster) that makes it generate X-ray emission 4,000 times that of a sun’s peak.
The Swift research also discovered 93 X-ray objects, half of them are active galaxies and rest of them are just different types of X-ray emitting stars.