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A Star is Discovered

A team of Swarthmore astronomers, including senior Michael Kuhn, an astrophysics major from Charlottesville, Va., discovered a previously unknown companion to the bright star, beta Crucis, in the Southern Cross. The well-known constellation appears on several national flags, including Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa. 

The discovery was announced at the 2007 American Astronomical Society meeting held in Seattle and has since made headlines in the New York Times, among several other news sources. Kuhn's work analyzing the x-ray data from both beta Crucis and its newly-discovered companion is the basis for a forthcoming paper on this project in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Clockwise, the Southern Cross is prominently displayed on Australia's flag, with beta Crucis just right of the Union Jack; an optical image of the Southern Cross, with beta Crucis indicated by the yellow rectangle and its newly discovered companion shown at the lower left; the Chandra space telescope image is color coded, with high energy x-rays colored blue, medium energy x-rays colored green, and lower energy x-rays colored red.

Read more in The Phoenix.