Astronomers using data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) have shown that Alpha Draconis, a well-studied star visible to the naked eye, and its fainter companion star regularly eclipse each other.
While astronomers previously knew this was a binary system, the mutual eclipses came as a complete surprise.
“The first question that comes to mind is ‘how did we miss this?’” said Angela Kochoska, a postdoctoral researcher at Villanova University in Pennsylvania who presented the findings at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu on Jan. 6. “The eclipses are brief, lasting only six hours, so ground-based observations can easily miss them. And because the star is so bright, it would have quickly saturated detectors on NASA’s Kepler observatory, which would also mask the eclipses.”