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Longest-Lasting Stellar Eclipse in the Universe to Date Lasts Three and a Half Years

First Posted: Feb 18, 2016 10:14 AM EST

Scientists have discovered the longest-lasting stellar eclipse. They've found a world where every 69 years the sun disappears in a near-total eclipse that lasts for three and a half years.

The newly discovered planet is a binary system that's nearly 10,000 light-years from Earth. The system, known as TYC 2505-672-1, sets a new record for both the longest duration stellar eclipse and the longest period between eclipses in a binary system.

"It's the longest duration stellar eclipse and the longest orbit for an eclipsing binary ever found...by far," said Joey Rodriguez, the new paper's first author, in a news release.

The researchers found the system with the help of the DASCH survey. With further study, the researchers discovered the unique properties of the system.

"One of the great challenges in astronomy is that some of the most important phenomena occur on astronomical timescales, yet astronomers are generally limited to much shorter human timescales," said Keivan Stassun, co-author of the new study. "Here we have a rare opportunity to study a phenomenon that plays out over many decades and provides a window into the types of environments around stars that could represent planetary building blocks at the very end of a star system's life."

The findings reveal a bit more about this system, and give astronomers a way to observe a phenomenon that occurs on a short enough timescale to watch fully. With that said, the researchers are hoping to eventually use more powerful telescopes in order to better see the system and the planets within it.

The findings are published in the Astronomical Journal.

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