Ms. Brayton has depicted a cataclysmic variable, a binary star system in which one higher mass component (usually a white dwarf star) is ripping material off its companion star. As that material falls onto the surface of the higher mass star, there is often a light show; flickering, explosions, and eclipses by and of the disk of material as the two stars orbit a common center of mass.

The white dwarf in this case is so heavily shrouded in encircling material that it cannot be detected. No cataclysmic variable has ever been observed in this much detail, so our professional colleagues must allow for some artistic licence.