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These super-sharp images of the unusual vampire double star system SS Leporis were created from observations made with the VLT Interferometer at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. The system consists of a red giant star orbiting a hotter companion. SS Leporis lies in the constellation of Lepus (The Hare), and consists of a red giant star orbiting a hotter companion. Red giants are swollen stars that have begun to exhaust their hydrogen fuel and are nearing their eventual demise. The two stars of SS Leporis circle each other every 260 days and are separated by little more than the distance between Earth and the sun. The larger and cooler star of the pair extends to about a quarter of this distance, which is roughly equivalent to the orbit of Mercury.
The new images are so sharp that they have enabled astronomers to measure the red giant star more accurately than ever before. As explained researchers since the stars are so close to one another, the hotter companion has already cannibalized about half of the mass of the red giant. The new observations show that the red giant star is actually smaller than was previously thought. To readjust their theory, the researchers now think that matter must be ejected from the giant star as stellar wind that is captured by the hotter companion, rather than simply streaming from one star to the other.
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