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What are "double system" stars? How do they deal with...

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Question by Fartus
Submitted on 1/23/2004
Related FAQ: [sci.astro,sci.astro.seti] Contents (Astronomy Frequently Asked Questions) (0/9)
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What are "double system" stars? How do they deal with gravity laws? How many double stars are out there?

Answer by Star*Hopper - Star*Hub Observatory
Submitted on 3/15/2004
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Whether you meant to or not, that was a good way of asking your question.  Double stars themselves are circumstantial - any two stars that 'appear' to be one or very close can be considered a double star, though in fact they might be light years apart and only appear close due to their alignment from our viewpoint.  For instance, star 'A' might be 15LY (Light Years) distant, and the apparent companion 'B' component actually much brighter, but appearing dimmer because it is 180LY distant. A pair in such a chance alignment are said to be a 'visual double'.  
Another type in this alignment circumstance is a 'spectroscopic' double, where the stars are so closely aligned one is hidden in the glare of the other, and can only be detected by the difference in their spectrographic signatures.  
'Double System' stars, or true binarys, are stars that are gravitationally bound to each other. For convenience sake they are depicted as one orbiting the other but in fact they both orbit the point where their collective mass is centered.  Of these, some are called 'photometric' or 'eclipsing' doubles, where one star partially dims or enhances the brightness of the other as it covers part of it in its orbit.  

How many? Quite numerous -- it has been estimated that between 53 & 60% of all stars are part of a binary system, so more are than are not!


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