Academic journal article Science and Children

A Record-Setting Binary Star System

Academic journal article Science and Children

A Record-Setting Binary Star System

Article excerpt

Imagine living on a world where, every 69 years, the Sun disappears in a near-total eclipse that lasts for three and a half years.

According to a recent study, an unnamed binary star system, nearly 10,000 light years from Earth, undergoes this process. A binary star system contains two stars that orbit a common center of mass. The newly discovered system, known only by its astronomical catalog number 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.

The previous record holder is Epsilon Aurigae, a giant star that is eclipsed by its companion every 27 years for periods ranging from 640 to 730 days.

" Epsilon Aurigae is much closer--about 2,200 light years from Earth--and brighter, which has allowed astronomers to study it extensively," says Joey Rodriguez, an author of the study. The leading explanation is that Epsilon Aurigae consists of a yellow giant star orbited by a normal star slightly bigger than the Sun.

The analysis of TYC 2505-672-1 revealed a system similar to the one at Epsilon Aurigae, with some important differences. It appears to consist of a pair of red giant stars, one of which has been stripped down to a relatively small core and surrounded by an extremely large disk of material that produces the extended eclipse. …

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