Eta Carinae, for example, is a binary star system that sits around 7,500 light years from Earth, and it's so incredibly extreme that when it fires cosmic rays off into space they actually manage to reach us here on Earth.
"Both of Eta Carinae's stars drive powerful outflows called stellar winds", Michael Corcoran, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a news release.
Also, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space telescope had been previously detecting gamma rays that contained X-rays with greater energy compared to other similarly detected gamma rays.
"We've known for some time that the region around Eta Carinae is the source of energetic emission in high-energy X-rays and gamma rays", said Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator of NuSTAR and a professor of astronomy at the California Institute of Technology.
These cosmic rays are "one of our few direct samples of matter from outside the solar system", NASA explains, and pack more than one billion electron volts (eV) of energy. However, their electrons, protons, and atomic nuclei swerved from its initial course when they collide with magnetic fields. This scrambles their paths and masks their origins.
Between 1838 and 1845, Eta Carinae underwent a period of unusual variability during which it briefly outshone Canopus, normally the second-brightest star. These stars have eccentric orbits that bring them unusually close to each other every 5.5 years.
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In five and half years, the two stars in the system come within 230 million kilometers of each or roughly the average distance between Sun and Mars.
A star system containing two very big suns is blasting cosmic rays into space and NASA scientists have found that the radiation is making its way towards Earth on intergalactic winds.
NASA was able to detect cosmic rays were coming from the stellar system through NuSTAR observations and lower-energy X-ray observations from the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton satellite from March 2015 to June 2016.
Eta Carinae's low-energy, or soft, X-rays come from gas at the interface of the colliding stellar winds, where temperatures exceed 40 million degrees Celsius. But NuSTAR detected a source of radiation exceeding 30,000 electron volts, about three times higher than interacting shock waves can explain.
The team's analysis, presented in a paper published on Monday, July 2, in Nature Astronomy, shows that these "hard" X-rays vary with the binary orbital period and show a similar pattern of energy output as the gamma rays observed by Fermi.
Some of these extremely fast particles crash into starlight, which boosts their light's energy, turning them into X-rays and even gamma rays, reveals the new study. To determine whether the interaction of the two stellar winds is responsible for periodic changes observed in the system, researchers used NuSTAR telescope which focuses X-rays of much greater energy better than any previous telescopes. They found that previously undetectable X-rays were coming from shock waves produced by colliding winds. "But until NuSTAR was able to pinpoint the radiation... the origin was mysterious". ASI provides the mission's ground station and a mirror archive.