Astronomers have found an old star switching on and off at a rapid pace, according to ANU cosmologist and astrophysicist Dr Brad Tucker.

“This is why it’s surprising, it’s not millions of years or billions of years, sometimes it’s turning on in a span of hours, like someone is really playing a trick with the light,” he told Sky News Australia.

Dr Tucker said the star is a white dwarf – which is what the sun will eventually become – and these can drain energy from stars close to its orbit.

“As it does, it kind of ignites this and it does this, we usually thought on the order of years, thousands of years sometimes or slightly longer but with TESS … it was able to see this flickering on and off,” he said.

“Really getting a new glimpse into how stars in the system interact.”

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