Dec. 19 (UPI) -- New images captured by NASA's NEOWISE satellite revealed a pattern of brightening emanating from a newfound star named Gaia 17bpi. The brightening suggests the young star is experiencing a growth spurt.
NEOWISE's observation reflect those made by European Space Agency's Gaia satellite, the spacecraft that first identified the star. The two datasets collected by Gaia and NEOWISE suggest the stellar object belongs to a class of stars that gains mass as material swirling around it is pulled inward and incorporated into the star's body.
"The material in the middle of the disk builds up in density and becomes unstable," Lynne Hillenbrand, professor of astronomy at Caltech, said in a news release. "Then it drains onto the star, manifesting as an outburst."
The influx of fresh stellar material causes the star to burn 100 times brighter than normal -- brightening that can be seen by faraway telescopes.
"Astronomers have found only 25 stars in this class, and only about half of those have been observed during an outburst," NASA reported in a recent update.
Some astronomers think such outbursts such as the one showcased by Gaia 17bpi are fairly common but usually shrouded from view by swirling clouds of dust.
As part of the study of Gaia 17bpi, scientists at Caltech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory surveyed the archives of NASA's infrared-sensing Spitzer Space Telescope. Their search revealed two previous infrared flare-ups from 2014.
Researchers expect Gaia to continue finding new and interesting stellar targets to investigate using old and new observations from other space telescopes.